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UNIv :>l!:iTYOF 
CALirO.".N!A , 

masb's ©veat mopcl XtDrarg 


Nash*s Great Novel Library 


By A. E. W. Mason. 

By A. Conan Doyle. 

By Anthony Hope. 

By Mary Cholmondeley. 

By Joseph Conrad. 

By Henry Seton Merriman. 

By Thomas Hardy. 

By H. de Vera Sttcpcole. 

By H. G. Wells. 

By Horace Annesley Vachell. 

By Robert Louis Stevenson. 

By Stanley Weyman. 

By Robert Hichens. 

By W. B. Maxwell. 

By Eden Phillpotts. 

By H. Rider Haggard. 


By A. Conan Doyle. 

By Lucas Malet. 

By Hall Caine. 







148, Strand 

'"^' ftKlfc" 



Part I. Minitt. 


I. Mellstock-lanb 



u. The Tranter's . 

► . 8 

III. The assembled Choir 

. 21 

IV. Going the Rounds . 

. 33 

V. The Listeners . 

. 44 

VI. Christmas Morning . 

. 56 

VII. The Tranter's Party 

. 70 

VIII. They dance more wildly 

. . 84 

IX. Dick oaixs at the School 

• 4 

. 103 

Part II. jjpnng. 

I. Passing by the School . 
u. A Meeting of the Choir . 



HI. A Turn in the Discussion 
IV. The Interview with the Vicar 
V. Eeturning Homeward 
vj. Yalbury Wood and the Keeper's House 
VII. Dick makes himself Useful . 
VIII. Dick meets his Father . 

Part III. ^ujumer, 

I. Driving out of Budmouth 
II. Farther along the Eoad 

III. A Confession . 

IV. An Arrangement . 




Part IY. g^ufunm. 

I. Going ;N"utting . . » • #233 
II. Honey-taking, and Afterwards . •245 

III. Fancy in the Eain . . * , ,264 

IV. The Spell 271 

V. After gaining her Point . • • 280 
VL Into Temptation 288 

VII. A Crisis . . . • • • • 298 


Part V. CoJTtlttgrott. 


I. * The Knot there's no Untying' , . 30? 

II. Under the Greenwood Treb , • • 33^ 


Part I. WiivdJ^X, 

Chapter I. Mellstook-lanb. 

To dwellers in a wood, almost every species 
of tree has its voice as well as its feature. 
At the passing of the breeze, the fir-trees 
sob and moan no less distinctly than they 
rock ; the holly whistles as it battles with 
itself; the ash hisses amid its quiverings; 
the beech rustles while its flat boughs rise 
and fall. And winter, which modifies the 
note of such trees as shed their leaves, does 
not destroy its individuality. 

On a cold and starry Christmas-eve less 
than a generation ago, a man was passing 
along a lane in the darkness of a plantation 


that whispered thus distinctively to his in- 
telligence. All the evidences of his nature 
were those afforded by the spirit of his foot- 
steps, which succeeded each other lightly 
and quickly, and by the liveliness of his 
voice as he sang in a rural cadence : 

* With the rose and the lily 
And the daffodowndilly, 
The lads and the lasses a-sheep-shearing go.* 

The lonely lane he was following con- 
nected the hamlets of Mellstock and Lew- 
gate, and to his eyes, casually glancing up- 
ward, the silver and black-stemmed birches 
with their characteristic tufts, the pale gray 
boughs of oak, the dark-creviced elm, all 
appeared now as black and flat outlines 
upon the sky, wherein the white stars 
twinkled so vehemently that their flickering 
seemed like the flapping of wings. Within 
the woody pass, at a level anything lower 
than the horizon, all was dark as the grave. 
The copsewood forming the sides of the 
boAver interlaced its branches so densely, 
even at this season of the year, that the 
draught from the north-east flew along the 


channel with scarcely an interruption from 
lateral breezes. 

At the termination of the wood, the 
white surface of the lane revealed itself be- 
tween the dark hedgerows, like a ribbon 
jagged at the edges ; the irregularity being 
caused by temporary accumulations of leaves 
extending from the ditch on either side. 

The song (many times interrupted by 
flitting thoughts which took the place of 
several bars, and resumed at a point it 
would have reached had its continuity been 
unbroken) now received a more palpable 
check, in the shape of ^ Ho-i-i-i-i-i I' from 
the dark part of the lane in the rear of 
the singer, who had just emerged from the 

* Ho-i-i-i-i-i I* he answered with uncon- 
cern, stopping and looking round, though 
with no idea of seeing anything more than 
imagination pictured. 

* Is that thee, young Dick Dewy ?' came 
from the darkness. 

' Ay, sure, Michael Mail.* 

' Then why not stop for fellow-craters — 


going to tliy own father's house too, as we 
be, and knowen us so well?' 

Young Dick Dewy faced about and con- 
tinued his tune in an under-whistle, imply- 
ino; that the business of his mouth could 
not be checked at a moment's notice by the 
placid emotion of friendship. 

Having escaped both trees and hedge, 
he could now be distinctly seen rising 
against the sky, his profile appearing on the 
light background like the portrait of a 
gentleman in black cardboard. It assumed 
the form of a low-crowned hat, an ordi- 
nary-shaped nose, an ordinary chin, an ordi- 
nary neck, and ordinary shoulders. What he 
consisted of farther down was invisible from 
lack of sky low enough to picture him on. 

Shuffling, halting, irregular footsteps of 
various kinds were now heard, coming up 
the hill from the dark interior of the grove, 
and presently there emerged severally five 
men of different ages and gaits, all of them 
working villagers of the parish of Mellstock. 
They too had lost their rotundity with the 
daylight, and advanced against the sky ii^ 


flat outlines, like some procession in Assy- 
rian or Egyptian incised work. They repre- 
sented the chief portion of Mellstock parish 

The first was a bowed and bent man, 
who carried a fiddle under his arm, and 
walked as if engaged in studying some sub- 
ject connected with the surface of the road. 
He was Michael Mail, the man who had 
hallooed to Dick. 

The next was Mr. Robert Penny, boot- 
and shoe-maker ; a little man, who, though 
rather round-shouldered, walked as if that 
fact had not come to his own knowledge, 
moving on with his back very hollow and 
his face fixed on the north quarter of the 
heavens before him, so that his lower waist- 
coat-buttons came first, and then the re- 
mainder of his figure. His features were 
invisible ; yet when he occasionally looked 
round, two faint moons of light gleamed 
for an instant from the precincts of his eyes, 
denoting that he wore spectacles of a circu- 
lar form. 

The third was Elias Spinks, who walked 


perpendicularly and dramatically. The 
fourth outline was that of Joseph Bo^vman, 
who had now no distinctive appearance be- 
yond that of a human being. Finally came 
a weak lath-like form, trotting and stumb- 
ling along with one shoulder forward and 
his head inclined to the left, his arms dang- 
ling nervelessly in the wind as if they were 
empty sleeves. This was Thomas Leaf. 

* Where be the boys?' said Dick to this 
somewhat indifferently-matched assembly. 

The eldest of the group, Michael Mail, 
cleared his throat from a great depth. 

' We told them to keep back at home 
for a time, thinken they wouldn't be wanted 
yet awhile ; and we could choose the tuens, 
and so on.' 

' Father and grandfather William have 
expected ye a little sooner. I have just 
been for a run to warm my feet.' 

*To be sure father did I To be sure a 
did expect us — to taste the little barrel 
beyond compare that he's going to tap.' 

' 'Od rabbit it all ! Never heard a word 
of it P said Mr. Penny, small gleams of de- 


light appearing upon his spectacle-glasses, 
Dick meanwhile singing parenthetically, 

* The lads and the lasses a-sheep-shearing go.' 

* Neighbours, there's time enough to 
drink a sight of drink now afore bedtime,' 
said Mail. 

'Trew, trew — time enough to get as 
drunk as lords!' replied Bowman cheer- 

This argument being convincing, they 
all advanced between the varying hedges 
and the trees dotting them here and there, 
kicking their toes occasionally among the 
crumpled leaves. Soon appeared glimmer- 
ing indications of the few cottages forming 
the small hamlet of Lewgate, for which 
they were bound, whilst the faint sound 
of church- bells ringing a Christmas peal 
could be heard floating over upon the breeze 
from the direction of Mintfield parish on 
the other side of the hills. A little wicket 
admitted them to a garden, and they pro- 
ceeded up the path to Dick's house. 



THE tranter's. 

It was a small low cottage with a thatclied 
pyramidal roof, and having dormer win- 
dows breaking up into the eaves, a single 
chimney standing in the very midst. The 
window-shutters were not yet closed, and 
the fire- and candle-light within radiated 
forth upon the bushes of variegated box and 
thick laurestinus growing in a throng out- 
side, and upon the bare boughs of several 
codlin-trees hanging about in various dis- 
torted shapes, the result of early training as 
espaliers, combined with careless climbing 
into their boughs in later years. The walls of 
the dwelling were for the most part covered 
with creepers, though these were rather 
beaten back from the doorway — a feature 
which was worn and scratched by much 
passing in and out, giving it by day the 
appearance of an old keyhole. Light 
streamed through the cracks and joints of a 
wooden shed at the end of the cottage, a sight 


which nourished a fancy that the purpose 
of the erection must be rather to veil bright 
attractions than to shelter unsightly neces- 
saries. The noise of a beetle and wedges 
and the splintering of wood was periodically 
heard from this direction ; and at the other 
end of the house a steady regular munch- 
ing and the occasional scurr of a rope be- 
tokened a stable, and horses feeding with- 
in it. 

The choir stamped severally on the door- 
stone to shake from their boots any frag- 
ment of dirt or leaf adhering thereto, then 
entered the house, and looked around to 
survey the condition of things. Through 
the open doorway of a small inner room 
on the left hand, of a character between 
pantry and cellar, was Dick Dewy^s father, 
Reuben, by vocation a 'tranter,^ or irregu- 
lar carrier. He was a stout florid man about 
forty years of age, who surveyed people up 
and down when first making their acquaint- 
ance, and generally smiled at the horizon 
or other distant object during conversa- 
tions with friends, walking about with a 


steady sway, and turning out his toes very 
considerably. Being now occupied in bend- 
ing over a hogshead, that stood in the pan- 
try ready horsed for the process of broach- 
ing, he did not take the trouble to turn or 
raise his eyes at the entry of his visitors, 
well knowing by their footsteps that they 
were the expected old acquaintance. 

The main room, on the right, was decked 
with bunches of holly and other evergreens, 
and from the middle of the huge beam bi- 
secting the ceiling hung the mistletoe, of a 
size out of all proportion to the room, and 
extending so low that it became necessary 
for a full-grown person to walk round it in 
passing, or run the risk of entangling his 
hair. This apartment contained Mrs. Dewy 
the tranter's wife, and the four remaining 
children, Susan, Jim, Bessy, and Charley, 
graduating uniformly though at wide stages 
from the age of sixteen to that of four years 
— the eldest of the series being separated 
from Dick the firstborn by a nearly equal 

Some circumstance having apparently 


caused much grief to Charley just previous 
to the entry of the choir, he had absently 
taken down a looking-glass, and was holding 
it before his face to see how the human 
countenance appeared when engaged in 
crying, which survey led him to pause at 
the various points in each wail that were 
more than ordinarily striking, for a more 
thorough appreciation of the general effect. 
Bessy was leaning against a chair, and 
glancing under the plaits about the waist 
of the plaid frock she wore, to notice the 
original unfaded pattern of the material as 
there preserved, her face bearing an ex- 
pression of regret that the brightness had 
passed away from the visible portions. Mrs. 
Dewy sat in a brown settle by the side of 
the glowing wood fire — so glowing that 
with a doubting compression of the lips she 
would now and then rise and put her hand 
upon the hams and flitches of bacon lining 
the chimney, to reassure herself that they 
were not being broiled instead of smoked, 
— a misfortune that had been known to 
happen at Christmas-time. 


* Hullo, my sonnies, here you be, then !' 
said Reuben Dewy at length, standing up 
and blowing forth a vehement gust of 
breath. * How the blood do puff up in 
anybody's head, to be sure, stooping like 
that ! I was just coming athwart to hunt 
ye out.' He then carefully began to wind a 
strip of brown paper round a brass tap he 
held in his hand. ' This in the cask here 
is a drop o' the right sort' (tapping the 
cask) ; ' 'tis a real drop o' cordial from the 
best picked apples — Horner's and Cadbury's 
— you d'mind the sort, Michael ?' (Michael 
nodded.) ^ And there's a sprinkling of they 
that grow down by the orchard - rails — 
streaked ones — rail apples we d'call 'em, as 
'tis by the rails they grow, and not know- 
ing the right name. The water-cider from 
'em is as good as most people's best cider is.' 

'Ay, and of the same make too,' said 
Bowman. 'It rained when we wrung it 
out, and the water got into it, folk wiU say. 
But 'tis on'y an excuse. Watered cider is 
too common among us.' 

' Yes, yes ; too common it is !' said Spinks 


with an inward sigh, whilst his eyes seemed 
to be looking at the world in an abstract 
form rather than at the scene before him. 
' Such poor liquor makes a man's throat 
feel very melancholy — and is a disgrace to 
the name of stimmilent.' 

' Come in, come in, and draw up to the 
fire; never mind your shoes,' said Mrs. 
Dewy, seeing that all except Dick had 
paused to wipe them upon the door-mat. 
* I be glad that youVe stepped up-along at 
last; and, Susan, you run across to Gam- 
mer Caytes's and see if you can borrow 
some larger candles than these fourteens. 
Tommy Leaf, don't ye be afeardi Come 
and sit here in the settle.' 

This was addressed to the young man 
before mentioned, consisting chiefly of a 
human skeleton and a smock-frock, and who 
was very awkward in his movements, ap- 
parently on account of having grown so 
very fast, that before he had had time to 
get used to his height he was higher. 

' Hee— hee — ay !* replied Leaf, letting 
Jiis mouth continue to smile for some time 


after his mind had done smiling, so that his 
teeth remained in view as the most conspi- 
cuous members of his body. 

' Here, Mr. Penny,' continued Mrs. 
Dewy, 'you sit in this chair. And how's 
your daughter, Mrs. Brownjohn?' 

' Well, I suppose I must say pretty fair,' 
adjusting his spectacles a quarter of an inch 
to the right. ' But she'll be worse before 
she's better, 'a b'lieve.' 

' Indeed — poor soul ! And how many 
will that make in all, four or five?* 

* Five ; they've buried three. Yes, five ; 
and she no more than a maid yet. How- 
ever, 'twas to be, and none can gainsay 

Mrs. Dewy resigned Mr. Penny. ' Won- 
der where your grandfather James is ?' she 
inquired of one of the children. * He said 
he'd drop in to-night.* 

* Out in fuel -house with grandfather 
William,' said Jimmy. 

* Now let's see what we can do,' was 
heard spoken about this time by the tranter 
in a private voice to the barrel, beside 


Which he had again established himself) 
and was stooping to cut away the cork. 

* Reuben, don t make such a mess o* 
tapping that barrel as is mostly made in 
this house,' Mrs. Dewy cried from the fire- 
place. ' I'd tap a hundred without wasting 
more than you do in one. Such a squizzling 
and squirting job as *tis in your hands. 
There, he always was such a clumsy man 

^ Ay, ay ; I know you'd tap a hundred, 
Ann — I know you would; two hundred, 
perhaps. But I can't promise. This is a 
old cask, and the wood's rotted away about 
the tap-hole. The husbird of a feller Sam 
Lawson — that ever I should call'n such, 
now he's dead and gone, pore old heart ! — 
took me in completely upon the feat of 
buying this cask. " Reub," says he — 'a 
always used to call me plain Reub, pore old 
heart I — '^ Reub," he said, says he, ''that 
there cask, Reub, is as good as new; yes, 
good as new. 'Tis a wine-hogshead; the 
best port- wine in the commonwealth have 
been in that there cask ; and you shall have 


en for ten shillens, Reub," — \ said, says 
he — "he's worth twenty, ay, five -and - 
twenty, if he's worth one; and an iron 
hoop or two put round en among the 
wood ones will make en worth thirty 
shillens of any man's money, if — " ' 

*I think I should have used the eyes 
that Providence gave me to use afore I paid 
any ten shillens for a jimcrack wine-barrel ; 
a saint is sinner enough not to be cheated. 
But 'tis like all your family were, so easy 
to be deceived.' 

' That's as true as gospel of this mem- 
ber,' said Reuben. 

Mrs. Dewy began a smile at the ans- 
wer, then altering her lips and re-folding 
them so that it was not a smile, commenced 
smoothing little Bessy's hair ; the tranter 
having meanwhile suddenly become oblivi- 
ous to conversation, occupying himself in a 
deliberate cutting and arrangement of some 
more brown paper for the broaching oper- 

' Ah, who can believe sellers !' said oW 
Michael Mail in a carefully-cautious voice, 


by way of tiding-over this critical point of 

' No one at all,' said Joseph Bowman, 
in the tone of a man fully agreeing with 

* Ay/ said Mail, in the tone of a man 
who did not agree with everybody as a 
rule, though he did now; 'I knowed an 
auctioneering feller once — a very friendly 
feller 'a was too. And so one day as I was 
walking down the front street of Caster- 
bridge, I passed a shop-door and see him 
inside, stuck upon his perch, a-selling off. 
I jest nodded to en in a friendly way as I 
passed, and went my way, and thought no 
more about it. Well, next day, as I was 
oilen my boots by fuel-house door, if a letter 
didn't come wi' a bill in en, charging me 
with a feather-bed, bolster, and pillers, that 
I had bid for at Mr. Taylor's sale. The 
slim-faced martel had knocked 'em down to 
me because I nodded to en in my friendly 
way ; and I had to pay for 'em too. Now, 
I hold that that was cutting it very close, 


' 'Twas close, there's no denying/ said 
the general voice. 

' Too close, 'twas,* said Reuben, in the 
rear of the rest. * And as to Sam Lawson 
—pore heart ! now he's dead and gone too ! 
— I'll warrant, that if so be I Ve spent one 
hour in making hoops for that barrel, I've 
spent fifty, first and last. That's one of my 
hoops' — touching it with his elbow — * that's 
one of mine, and that, and that, and all 

' Ah, Sam was a man !' said Mr. Penny, 
looking contemplatively at a small stool. 

' Sam was I' said Bowman, shaking his 
head t^vice. 

' Especially for a drap o' drink,' said the 

*Good, but not religious -good,' sug- 
gested Mr. Penny. 

The tranter nodded. Having at last 
made the tap and hole quite ready, ' Now 
then, Suze, bring a mug,' he said. * Here's 
luck to us, my sonnies !' 

The tap went in, and the cider imme- 
diately squirted out in a horizontal shower 



over Reuben's hands, knees, and leggings, 
and into the eyes and neck of Charley, who, 
having temporarily put off his grief undei 
pressure of more interesting proceedings, 
was squatting down and blinking near his 

' There 'tis again !' said Mrs. Dewy. 

' D — 1 take the hole, the cask, and Sam 
Lawson too, that good cider should be 
wasted like this !' exclaimed the tranter 
excitedly. ' Your thumb ! Lend me your 
thumb, Michael ! Ram it in here, Michael ! 
I must get a bigger tap, my sonnies.' 

'Idd it cold inthide te hole?' inquired 
Charley of Michael, as he continued in a 
stooping posture with his thumb in the cork- 

'What wonderful odds and ends that 
chiel has in his head to be sure !' Mrs. Dewy 
admiringly exclaimed from the distance. * I 
lay a wager that he cares more about the 
climate inside that barrel than in all the 
other parts of the world put together.' 

All persons present put on a speaking 
countenance of admiration for the cleverness 


alluded to, in the midst of which Reuben 
returned. The operation was then satisfac- 
torily performed ; when Michael arose, and 
stretched his head to the extremest fraction 
of height that his body would allow of, to 
restraighten his bent back and shoulders — 
thrusting out his arms and twisting his fea- 
tures to a mere mass of wrinkles at the 
same time, to emphasise the relief acquired. 
A quart or two of the beverage was then 
brought to table, at which all the new arri- 
vals reseated themselves with wide- spread 
knees, their eyes meditatively seeking out 
with excruciating precision any small speck 
or knot in the table upon which the gaze 
might precipitate itself. 

* What ever is father a-biding out in fuel- 
house so long for ?' said the tranter. * Never 
such a man as father for two things — cleav- 
ing up old dead apple-tree wood and play- 
ing the bass-viol. 'A'd pass his life between 
the two, that ^a would.* He stepped to the 
door and opened it. 

* Father!' 

* Ay !' rang thinly from round the corner. 


' Here's the barrel tapped, and we all 
a- waiting !' 

A series of dull thuds, that had been 
heard through the chimney-back for some 
time past, now ceased ; and after the light 
of a lantern had passed the window and 
made wheeling rays upon the ceiling inside, 
the eldest of the Dewy family appeared. 



William Dewy — otherwise grandfather 
William — was now about seventy; yet an 
ardent vitality still preserved a warm and 
roughened bloom upon his face, which re- 
minded gardeners of the sunny side of a 
ripe ribstone-pippin ; though a narrow strip 
of forehead, that was protected from the 
weather by lying above the line of his hat- 
brim, seemed to belong to some town man, 
so gentlemanly was its whiteness. His was 
a humorous and gentle nature, not unmixed 
with a frequent melancholy ; and he had a 


firm religious faith. But to his neighbours 
he had no character in particular. If they 
saw him pass by their windows when they 
had been bottling off old mead, or when they 
had just been called long-headed men who 
might do anything in the world if they 
chose, they thought concerning him, *Ah, 
there^s that good-hearted man — open as a 
child !* If they saw him just after losing a 
shilling or half-a-crown, or accidentally let- 
ting fall a piece of crockery, they thought, 
* There^s that poor weak-minded man Dewy 
again! Ah, hell never do much in the 
world either!' If he passed when fortune 
neither smiled nor frowned on them, they 
merely thought him old William Dewy. 

*Ah, so's—here you be! — Ah, Michael 
and Joseph and John — and you too, Leaf! a 
merry Christmas all ! We shall have a rare 
log- wood fire directly, Reub, if it d'go by the 
toughness of the job I had in cleaving 'em.' 
As he spoke he threw down an armful of 
logs, which fell in the chimney-corner with 
a rumble, and looked at them with some- 
thing of the admiring enmity he would 


have bestowed on living people who had 
been very obstinate in holding their own. 
* Come in, grandfather James.* 

Old James (grandfather on the maternal 
side) had simply called as a visitor. He 
lived in a cottage by himself, and many 
people considered him a miser : some, rather 
slovenly in his habits. He now came for- 
ward from behind grandfather William, 
and his stooping figure formed a well-illumi- 
nated picture as he passed towards the fire- 
place. Being by trade a mason, he wore a 
long linen apron reaching almost to his 
toes, corduroy breeches and gaiters, which, 
together with his boots, graduated in 
tints of whitish-brown by constant friction 
against lime and stone. He also wore a very 
stifi^ fustian coat, having folds at the elbows 
and shoulders as unvarying in their arrange- 
ment as those in a pair of bellows: the 
ridges and the projecting parts of the coat 
collectively exhibiting a shade different 
from that of the hollows, which were lined 
with small ditch-like accumulations of stone 
and mortar-dust. The extremely large side- 


pockets, sheltered beneath wide flaps, bulged 
out convexly whether empty or full; and 
as he was often engaged to work at build- 
ings far away — his breakfasts and dinners 
being eaten in a strange chimney-corner, 
by a garden wall, on a heap of stones, or 
walking along the road — he carried in these 
pockets a small tin canister of butter, a 
small canister of sugar, a small canister of 
tea, a paper of salt, and a paper of pepper ; 
the bread, cheese, and meat, forming the 
substance of his meals, hanging up behind 
him in his basket among the hammers and 
chisels. If a passer-by looked hard at him 
when he was drawing forth any of these, — 
' My larders,* he said, with a pinched smile. 

' Better try over number seventy-eight 
before we start, I suppose ?' said William, 
pointing to a heap of old Chrismas- carol 
books on a side table. 

' Wi' all my heart,' said the choir gene- 

' Number seventy-eight was always a 
teaser — always. I can mind him ever since 
I was growing up a hard boy-chap/ 


' But he's a good tune, and worth a mint 
o' practice/ said Michael. 

'He is ; though I've been mad enough 
wi' that tune at times to seize en and tear 
en all to linnet. Ay, he's a splendid carrel 
— there's no denying that.^ 

' The first line is well enough,' said Mr. 
Spinks ; ' but when you come to "0, thou 
man," you make a mess o't.' 

' We'll have another go into en, and see 
what we can make of the martel. Half an 
hour's hammering at en mil conquer the 
toughness of en; I'll warn it.' 

' 'Od rabbit it all !' said Mr. Penny, in- 
terrupting with a flash of his spectacles, 
and at the same time clawing at something 
in the depths of a large side-pocket. ' If so 
be I hadn't been as scatter-brained and 
thirtingill as a chiel, I should have called at 
the schoolhouse wi' a boot as I cam up- 
along. What ever is coming to me I really 
can't estimate at all !' 

*The brain hev its weaknesses,' mur- 
mured Mr. Spinks, waving his head omin- 


'Well, I must call with en the first 
thing to-morrow. And I'll empt my pocket 
o' this last too, if you don't mind, Mrs. 
Dewy.' He drew forth a last, and placed 
it on a table at his elbow. The eyes of 
three or four followed it. 

* Well,' said the shoemaker, seeming to 
perceive that the sum-total of interest the 
object had excited was greater than he had 
anticipated, and warranted the last's being 
taken up again and exhibited, ' now, whose 
foot do ye suppose this last was made for ? 
It was made for Geoffrey Day's father, over 
at Yalbury Wood. Ah, many's the pair o' 
boots he've had off the last ! Well, when 'a 
died, I used the last for Geoffrey, and have 
ever since, though a little doctoring was 
wanted to make it do. Yes, a very quaint 
humorous last it is now, 'a b'lieve,^ he con- 
tinued, turning it over caressingly. ^Now, 
you notice that there' (pointing to a lump 
of leather bradded to the toe) — 'that's a very 
bad bunion that he've had ever since 'a was 
a boy. Now, this remarkable large piece' 
(pointing to a patch nailed to the side) 


* shows an accident he received by the tread 
of a horse, that squashed his foot a most 
to a pomace. The horseshoe cam full- 
butt on this point, you see. And so I've 
just been over to Geoffrey's, to know if he 
wanted his bunion altered or made bigger 
in the new pair I'm making/ 

During the latter part of this speech, 
Mr. Penny's left hand wandered towards 
the cider-cup, as if the hand had no connec- 
tion with the person speaking ; and bring- 
ing his sentence to an abrupt close, all but 
the extreme margin of the bootmaker's face 
was eclipsed by the circular brim of the 

'However, I was going to say,' con- 
tinued Penny, putting down the cup, ' I 
ought to have called at the school' — here he 
went groping again in the depths of his 
pocket — ' to leave this without fail, though 
I suppose the first thing to-morrow will do.' 

He now drew forth and placed upon the 
table a boot — small, light, and prettily 
shaped — upon the heel of which he had 
been operating. ' The new schoolmistress's !' 


'Ay, no less; Miss Fancy Day: as nate 
a little figure of fun as ever I see, and just 

* Never Geoffrey's daughter Fancy ?' said 
Bowman, as all glances present converged 
like wheel-spokes upon the boot in the centre 
of them. 

'Yes, sure,' resumed Mr. Penny, regard- 
ing the boot as if that alone were his audi- 
tor ; ' 'tis she that's come here schoolmis- 
tress. You knowed his daughter was in 
training ?' 

'Strange, isn't it, for her to be here 
Christmas-night, Master Penny ?' 

' Yes ; but here she is, 'a b'lieve.' 

' I know how she d'come here — so I do !* 
chirruped one of the children. 

'Why?' Dick inquired, with subtle in- 

' Parson Maybold was afraid he couldn't 
manage us all to-morrow at the dinner, and 
he talked o* getting her jist to come over and 
help him hand about the plates, and see we 
didn't make beasts of ourselves ; and tb?it'g 
what sbe'apome for!' 


' And that's the boot, then/ continued 
it3 mender imaginatively, Hhat she'll walk 
to church in to-moirow morning. I don't 
care to mend boots I don't make ; but 
there's no knowing what it may lead to, and 
her father always comes to me.' 

There, between the cider-mug and the 
candle, stood this interesting receptacle of 
the little unknown's foot ; and a very pretty 
boot it was. A character, in fact — the flexi- 
ble bend at the instep, the rounded locali- 
ties of the small nestling toes, scratches 
from careless scampers now forgotten — all, 
as repeated in the tell-tale leather, evi- 
dencing a nature and a bias. Dick surveyed 
it with a delicate feeling that he had no 
right to do so without having first asked 
the owner of the foot's permission. 

* Now, naibours, though no common eye 
can see it,* the shoemaker went on, ' a man 
in the trade can see the likeness between 
this boot and that last, although that is so 
deformed as hardly to be called one of God's 
creatures, and this is one of as pretty a 
pair as you'd get for ten- and- sixpence in 


Casterbridge. To you, nothing ; but 'tis 
father's foot and daughter's foot to me, as 
plain as houses.' 

' I don't doubt there's a likeness, Master 
Penny — a mild likeness — a far-remote like- 
ness — still, a likeness as far as that goes,' 
said Spinks. ' But / haven't imagination 
enough to see it, perhaps.' 

Mr. Penny adjusted his spectacles. 

'Now, I'll tell you what happened to 
me once on this very point. You used to 
know Johnson the dairyman, William ? 

' Ay, sure ; that I did.' 

'Well, 'twasn't opposite his house, but 
a little lower down — by his pigsty, in front 
o' Parkmaze Pool. I was a- walking down 
the lane, and lo and behold, there was a 
man just brought out o' the Pool, dead; he 
had been bathing, and gone in flop over his 
head. Men looked at en ; women looked at 
en ; children looked at en ; nobody knowed 
en. He was covered in a cloth; but I 
catched sight of his foot, just showing out 
as they carried en along. " I don't care 
what name that man went by," I said, in my 


bold way, " but he's John Woodward's bro- 
ther ; I can swear to the family foot." At 
that very moment, up comes John Wood- 
ward, weeping and crying, "I've lost my 
brother ! I've lost my brother !" ' 

' Only to think of that !' said Mrs. Dewy. 

* 'Tis well enough to know this foot and 
that foot,' said Mr. Spinks. ' 'Tis some- 
thing, in fact, as far as that goes. I know 
little, 'tis true — I say no more; but show 
me a man's foot, and I'll tell you that man s 

' You must be a cleverer feller, then, 
than mankind in jineral,' said the tranter. 

'Well, that's nothing for me to speak 
of,' returned Mr. Spinks solemnly. ^ A man 
acquires. Maybe I've read a leaf or two 
in my time. I don't wish to say anything 
large, mind you ; but nevertheless, maybe 
I have.* 

' Yes, I know,' said Michael soothingly, 
'and all the parish knows, that yeVe read 
something of everything almost. Learning's 
a worthy thing, and yeVe got it. Master 


* I make no boast, though I may have 
read and thought a little; and I know — it 
may be from much perusing, but I make 
no boast — that by the time a man's head is 
finished, 'tis almost time for him to creep 
underground. I am over forty-five/ 

Mr. Spinks emitted a look to signify that 
if his head was not finished, nobody's head 
ever could be. 

* Talk of knowing people by their feet 1* 
said Reuben. ' Rot me, my sonnies, then, 
if I can tell what a man is from all his 
members put together, oftentimes.' 

' But still, look is a good deal,' observed 
grandfather William absently, moving and 
balancing his head till the tip of grand- 
father James's nose was exactly in a right 
line with William's eye and the mouth of a 
miniature cavern he was discerning in the 
fire. ' By the way,' he continued in a fresher 
voice, and looking up, ' that young crater, 
the schoolmistress, must be sung to to- 
night wi' the rest? If her ear is as fine as 
her face, we shall have enough to do to be 
up-sides with her.' 


'What about her face?' said young 

' Well, as to that/ Mr. Spinks replied, 
* 'tis a face you can hardly gainsay. A very 
good face — and a pink face, as far as that 
goes. Still, only a face, when all is said 
and done.' 

' Come, come, Elias Spinks, say she's a 
pretty maid, and have done wi' her,' said 
the tranter, again preparing to visit the 



Shortly after ten o'clock, the singing- 
boys arrived at the tranter s house, which was 
invariably the place of meeting, and prepa- 
rations were made for the start. The older 
men and musicians wore thick coats, with 
stiff perpendicular collars, and coloured 
handl^erchiefs wound round and round the 
neck till the end came to han-d, over all 
which they just showed their ears and 
noses, like people looking over a wall. The 


remainder, stalwart ruddy men and boys, 
were mainly dressed in snow-white smock- 
frocks, embroidered upon the shoulders 
and breasts, in ornamental forms of hearts, 
diamonds, and zigzags. The cider -mug was 
emptied for the ninth time, the music-books 
were arranged and the pieces finally decided 
upon. The boys in the mean time put the 
old horn-lanterns in order, cut candles into 
short lengths to fit the lanterns ; and a thin 
fleece of snow having fallen since the early 
part of the evening, those who had no leg- 
gings went to the stable and wound wisps 
of hay round their ankles to keep the insi- 
dious flakes from the interior of their boots. 
Mellstock was a parish of considerable 
acreage, the hamlets composing it lying at 
a much greater distance from each other 
than is ordinarily the case. Hence several 
hours were consumed in playing and sing- 
ing within hearing of every family, even if 
but a single air were bestowed on each. 
There was East MeUstock, the main village ; 
half a mile from this were the church and 
the vicarage, called West Mellstock, and 


originally the most thickly - populated 
portion. A mile north-east lay the hamlet 
of Lewgate, where the tranter lived; and 
at other points knots of cottages, besides 
solitary farmsteads and dairies. 

Old William Dewy, with the violoncello, 
played the bass ; his grandson Dick the 
treble violin ; and Eeuben and Michael Mail 
the tenor and second violins respectively. 
The singers consisted of four men and 
seven boys, upon whom devolved the task 
of carrying and attending to the lanterns, 
and holding the books open for the players. 
Directly music was the theme, old William 
ever and instinctively came to the front. 

* Now mind, naibours,' he said, as they all 
went out one by one at the door, he himself 
holding it ajar and regarding them with a 
critical face as they passed, like a shepherd 
counting out his sheep. ' You two counter- 
boys, keep your ears open to Michael's fin- 
gering, and don't ye go straying into the 
treble part along o' Dick and his set, as ye 
did last year ; and mind this especially when 
we be in " Arise^ and hail." Billy Chimlen, 


don't you sing quite so raving mad as you 
fain would ; and, all o' ye, whatever ye do, 
keep from making a great scuffle on the 
ground when we go in at people's gates; 
but go quietly, so as to strik' up all of a 
sudden, like spirits.' 

' Farmer Ledlow's first?* 

'Farmer Ledlow's first; the rest as 

'And, Voss,' said the tranter termina- 
tively, ' you keep house here till about half- 
past two ; then heat the metheglin and cider 
in the warmer you'll find turned up upon 
the copper; and bring it wi' the victuals 
to church-porch, as th'st know.' 

Just before the clock struck twelve, they 
lighted the lanterns and started. The moon, 
in her third quarter, had risen since the 
snow-storm ; but the dense accumulation of 
snow- cloud weakened her power to a faint 
twilight, which was rather pervasive of the 
landscape than traceable to the sky. The 
breeze had gone down, and the rustle of 
their feet, aud tones of tbeir speech, echoed 


with an alert rebound from every post, 
boundary-stone, and ancient wall they passed, 
even where the distance of the echo's oriorin 
was less than a few yards. Beyond their 
own slight noises nothing was to be heard, 
save the occasional howl of foxes in the 
direction of Yalbury Wood, or the brush 
of a rabbit among the grass now and then, 
as it scampered out of their way. 

Most of the outlying homesteads and 
hamlets had been visited by about two 
o'clock : they then passed across the Home 
Plantation to^vard the main village. Pur- 
suing no recognised track, great care was 
necessary in walking lest their faces should 
come in contact with the low -hanging 
boughs of the old trees, which in many 
spots formed dense overgrowths of inter- 
laced branches. 

'Times have changed from the times 
they used to be,* said Mail, regarding no- 
body can tell what interesting old pano- 
ramas with an inward eye, and letting his 
outward glance rest on the ground, because 
it was as convenient a position as any. 


' People don't care much about us now I 
1 Ve been thinking, we must be almost the 
last left in the county of the old strinff 
players. Barrel-organs, and they next door 
to 'em that you blow wi' your foot, have 
come in terribly of late years.' 

*Ah!' said Bowman, shaking his head; 
and old William, on seeing him, did the 
same thing. 

' More's the pity,' replied another. ' Time 
was — long and merry ago now ! — when not 
one of the varmits was to be heard of; but 
it served some of the choirs right. They 
should have stuck to strings as we did, and 
keep out clar'nets, and done away with ser- 
pents. If you'd thrive in musical religion, 
stick to strings, says I.^ 

* Strings are well enough, as far as that 
goes,' said Mr. Spink s. 

' There's worse things than serpents,' 
said Mr. Penny. ' Old things pass away, 
'tis true ; but a serpent was a good old 
note : a deep rich note was the serpent.' 

' Clar'nets, however, be bad at all times,* 
said Michael Mail. ' One Christmas — years 


agone now, years — I went the rounds wi* 
the Dibbeach choir. 'Twas a hard frosty 
night, and the keys of all the clar'nets froze 
— ah, they did freeze ! — so that 'twas like 
drawing a cork every time a key was 
opened ; the players o' 'em had to go into 
a hedger and ditcher s chimley-corner, and 
thaw their clar'nets every now and then. 
An icicle o' spet hung do^vn from the end 
of every man*s clar'net a span long ; and as 
to fingers — well, there, if ye'll believe me, 
we had no fingers at all, to our know- 

'I can well bring back to my mind,' 
said Mr. Penny, ' what I said to poor Joseph 
Ryme (who took the tribble part in High- 
Story Church for two-and-forty year) when 
they thought of having clar'nets there. 
"Joseph," I said, says I, '^depend upon't, if 
so be you have them tooting clar'nets you'll 
spoil the whole set-out. Clar'nets were not 
made for the service of Providence ; you 
can see it by looking at 'em," I said. And 
what cam o't? Why, my dear souls, the 
parson set up a barrel-organ on his own ac- 


count within two years o' the time I spoke, 
and the old choir went to nothing/ 

*As far as look is concerned/ said the 
tranter, ' I don't for my part see that a fid- 
dle is much nearer heaven than a clar net. 
'Tis farther off. There's always a rakish, 
scampish countenance about a fiddle that 
seems to say the Wicked One had a hand in 
making o'en; while angels be supposed to 
play clar'nets in heaven, or som'at like 'em, 
if ye may believe picters.' 

' Robert Penny, you were in the right,' 
broke in the eldest Dewy. ' They should ha' 
stuck to strings. Your brass-man, is brass 
— well and good ; your reed-man, is reed — 
well and good; your percussion-man, is 
percussion — good again. But I don't care 
who hears me say it, nothing will speak to 
your heart wi' the sweetness of the man of 
strings !' 

' Strings for ever !' said little Jimmy. 

' Strings alone would have held their 
ground against all the new comers in crea- 
tion.' (' True, true I' said Bowman.) * But 
clar'nets was death.' ('Death they was !' said 


Mr. Penny.) 'And harmoniums,' William 
continued in a louder voice, and getting 
excited by these signs of approval, ' har- 
moniums and barrel-organs' ('Ah I' and 
groans from Spinks) 'be miserable — what 
shall I call 'em ? — miserable — * 

' Sinners,' suggested Jimmy, who made 
large strides like the men, and did not lag 
behind like the other little boys. 

' Miserable machines for such a divine 
thing as music !' 

' Right, William, and so they be !' said 
the choir with earnest unanimity. 

By this time they were crossing to a 
wicket in the direction of the school, which, 
standing on a slight eminence on the op- 
posite side of a cross lane, now rose in un- 
varying and dark flatness against the sky. 
The instruments were retuned, and all the 
band entered the enclosure, enjoined by old 
William to keep upon the grass. 

'Number seventy -eight,' he softly gave 
oat as they termed round in a semicircle, the 
boys opening the lanterns to get a clearer 
light, and directing their rays on the books. 


Then passed forth into the quiet night 
an ancient and well-worn hymn, embodying 
Christianity in words peculiarly befitting 
the simple and honest hearts of the quaint 
characters who sang them so earnestly. 

* Remember Adam's fall, 

thou man : 
Eemember Adam's fall 

From Heaven to Hell. 
Kemember Adam's fall ; 
How he hath condemn'd all 
In Hell perpetual 

Therefore to dwell. 

Remember God's goodnesse, 

thou man : 
Remember God's goodnesse, 

His promise made. 
Remember God's goodnesse ; 
He sent his Son sinlesse 
Our ails for to redress, 

Our hearts to aid. 

In Bethlehem he was born, 

thou man : 
In Bethlehem he was bo/xj, 

For mankind's sake. 
In Bethlehem he was born, 
Christmas-day i' the morn : 
Our Saviour did not scoim 

Oui faults to take. 


Give thanks to God ahvay, 

thou man : 
Give thanks to God ahvay 

With heart-felt joy. 
Give thanks to God ahvay 
On this our joyful day : 
Let all men sing and say, 

Holy, Holy !' 

Having concluded the last note, they 
listened for a minute or two, but found that 
no sound issued from the school-house. 

' Forty breaths, and then, " 0, what 
unbounded goodness!" number fifty -nine/ 
said William. 

This was duly gone through, and no 
notice whatever seemed to be taken of the 

' Surely 'tisn't an empty house, as befell 
us in the year thirty-nine and forty-three !' 
said old Dewy, with much disappointment. 

* Perhaps she's jist come from some 
noble city, and sneers at our doings,' the 
tranter whispered. 

' 'Od rabbit her !' said Mr. Penny, with 
an annihilating look at a corner of the school 
chimney, ' I don't quite stomach her, if this 


is it. Your plain music well done is as 
worthy as your other sort done bad, a' 
b'lieve souls; so say 1/ 

'Forty breaths, and then the last/ 
said the leader authoritatively. ' " Rejoice, 
ye tenants of the earth," number sixty- 

At the close, waiting yet another minute, 
he said in a clear loud voice, as he had said 
in the village at that hour and season for 
the previous forty years : 

' A merry Christmas to ye I' 



When the expectant stillness consequent 
upon the exclamation had nearly died out 
of them all, an increasing light made itself 
visible in one of the windows of the upper 
floor. It came so close to the blind that 
the exact position of the flame could be 
perceived from the outside. Remaining 
steady for an instant, the blind went up- 


ward from before it, revealing to thirty con- 
centrated eyes a young girl, framed as a 
picture by the window-architrave, and un- 
consciously illuminating her countenance 
to a vivid brightness by a candle she held 
in her left hand, close to her face, her right 
hand being extended to the side of the win- 
dow. She was wrapped in a white robe 
of some kind, whilst down her shoulders 
fell a twining profusion of marvellously rich 
hair, in a wild disorder which proclaimed 
it to be only during the invisible hours of 
the night that such a condition was dis- 
coverable. Her bright eyes were looking 
into the gray world outside with an uncer- 
tain expression, oscillating between courage 
and shyness, which, as she recognised the 
semicircular group of dark forms gathered 
before her, transformed itself into pleasant 

Opening the window, she said lightly 
and warmly : 

' Thank you, singers, thank you !' 
Together went the window quickly and 
quietly, and the blind started downward 


on its return to its place. Her fair fore- 
head and eyes vanished ; her little mouth ; 
her neck and shoulders ; all of her. Then 
the spot of candlelight shone nebulously as 
before ; then it moved away. 

* How pretty !' exclaimed Dick Dewy. 

^ If she'd been rale wexwork she couldn*t 
ha' been comelier,' said Michael Mail. 

' As near a thing to a spiritual vision 
as ever I wish to see !' said tranter Dewy 

' 0, sich I never, never see !' said Leaf. 

All the rest, after clearing their throats 
and adjusting their hats, agreed that such 
a sight was worth singing for. 

' Now to Farmer Shinar's, and then re- 
plenish our inside s, father,' said the tran- 

' Wi' all my heart,' said old William, 
shouldering his bass-viol. 

Farmer Shinar's was a queer lump of a 
house, standing at the corner of a lane that 
ran obliquely into the principal thorough- 
fare. The upper windows were much wider 
than they were high, and this feature, to- 


getlier with a broad bay-window where the 
door might have been expected, gave it 
by day the aspect of a human countenance 
turned askance, and wearing a sly and 
wicked leer. To-night nothing was visible 
but the outline of the roof upon the sky. 

The front of this building was reached, 
and the preliminaries arranged as usual. 

' Porty breaths, and number thirty- two, 
— " Behold the morning star," ' said old 

They had reached the end of the second 
verse, and the fiddlers were doing the up 
bow-stroke previously to pouring forth the 
opening chord of the third verse, when, 
without a light appearing or any signal 
being given, a roaring voice exclaimed : 

' Shut up ! Don't make your blaring 
row here. A feller wi' a headache enough 
to split likes a quiet night.' 

Slam went the window. 

* Hullo, that's an ugly blow for we 
artists !' said the tranter, in a keenly appre- 
ciative voice, and turning to his companions. 

* Finish the carrel, all who be Iriends of 


harmony!' said old William commandingly ; 
and they continued to the end. 

* Forty breaths, and number nineteen !' 
said William firmly. ' Give it him well ; 
the choir can't be insulted in this manner !' 

A light now flashed into existence, the 
window opened, and the farmer stood re- 
vealed as one in a terrific j^assion. 

^ Drown en! — drown en!' the tranter 
cried, fiddling frantically. ' Play fortissimy 
and drown his spaking!' 

' Fortissimy !' said Michael Mail, and the 
music and singing waxed so loud that it 
was impossible to know what Mr. Shinar 
had said, was saying, or was about to say ; 
but wildly flinging his arms and body 
about in the form of capital Xs and Ys, 
he appeared to utter enough invectives to 
consign the whole parish to perdition. 

'Yery unseemly — very! 'said old Wil- 
liam, as they retired. ' Never such a dread- 
ful scene in the whole round o' my carrel 
practice — never! And he a churchwarden!' 

' Only a drap o' drink got into his head,' 
Raid the tranter. * Man's well enough when 


he^s in his religious frame. He's in his 
worldly frame now. Must ask en to our 
bit of a party to-morrer night, I suppose, 
and so put en in track again. We bear no 
martel man ill-will.' 

They now crossed Twenty-acres to pro- 
ceed to the lower village, and met Voss 
with the hot mead and bread-and-cheese as 
they were crossing the churchyard. This 
determined them to eat and drink before 
proceeding farther, and they entered the 
belfry. The lanterns were opened, and the 
whole body sat round against the walls on 
benches and whatever else was available, 
and made a hearty meal. In the pauses of 
conversation could be heard through the 
floor overhead a little world of undertones 
and creaks from the halting clockwork, 
which never spread farther than the tower 
they were born in, and raised in the more 
meditative minds a fancy that here lay the 
direct pathway of Time. 

Having done eating and drinking, the 
instruments were again tuned, and once 
more the party emerged into the night air. 


' T\^ere's Dick ?' said old Dewy. 

Every man looked round upon every 
other man, as if Dick might have been 
transmuted into one or the other; and then 
they said they didn't know. 

^ Well now, that's what I call very nasty 
of Master Dicky, that I do so,' said Michael 

'He've clinked off home-along, depend 
upon 't,' another suggested, though not quite 
believing that he had. 

' Dick !' exclaimed the tranter, and his 
voice rolled sonorously forth among the 

He suspended his muscles rigid as stone 
whilst listening for an answer, and finding 
he listened in vain, turned to the assem- 

' The tribble man too ! Now if he'd been 
a tinner or counter chap, we might ha' con- 
trived the rest o't without en, you see. 
But for a choir to lose the tribble, why, my 
sonnies, you may so well lose your . . . .' 
The tranter paused, unable to mention an 
image vast enough for the occasion. 



*Your head at once/ suggested Mr. 

The tranter moved a pace, as if it were 
puerile of people to complete sentences 
when there were more pressing things to 
be done. 

'Was ever heard such a thing as a 
young man leaving his work half done and 
turning tail like this !* 

* Never,' replied Bowman, in a tone sig- 
nifying that he was the last man in the 
world to wish to withhold the formal finish 
required of him. 

' I hope no fatal tragedy has overtook 
the lad!* said his grandfather. 

* no,' replied tranter Dewy placidly. 
' Wonder where he've put that there fiddle 
of his. Why that fiddle cost thirty shillens, 
and good words besides. Somewhere in 
the damp, without doubt ; that there instru- 
ment will be unglued and spoilt in ten 
minutes — ten ! ay, two.' 

* What in the name o' righteousness can 
have happened ?' said old William still more 


Leaving their lanterns and instruments 
in the belfry they retraced their steps. * A 
strapping lad like Dick d'know better than 
let anything happen onawares/ Reuben re- 
marked. 'There's sure to be some poor 
little scram reason for't staring us in the 
face all the while.' He lowered his voice 
to a mysterious tone: 'Naibours, have ye 
noticed any sign of a scornful woman in his 
head, or suchlike ?' 

* Not a glimmer of such a body. He's 
as clear as water yet.' 

' And Dicky said he should never 
marry,' cried Jimmy, 'but live at home 
always along wi' mother and we !' 

' Ay, ay, my sonny ; every lad has said 
that in his time.' 

They had now again reached the pre- 
cincts of Mr. Shinar's, but hearing nobody 
in that direction, one or two went across to 
the school-house. A light was still burning 
in the bedroom, and though the blind was 
down, the window had been slightly opened, 
as if to admit the distant notes of the carol- 
lers to tiie ears of the occupant of the room. 


Opposite the window, leaning motion- 
less against a wall, was the lost man, his 
arms folded, his head thrown back, his 
eyes fixed upon the illuminated lattice. 

' Why, Dick, is that thee ? What's doing 
here V 

Dick's body instantly flew into a more 
rational attitude, and his head was seen to 
turn east and west in the gloom, as if en- 
deavouring to discern some proper answer to 
that question ; and at last he said in rather 
feeble accents, 

* Nothing, father.' 

* Th'st take long enough time about it 
then, upon my body,' said the tranter, as 
they all turned towards the vicarage. 

' I thought you hadn't done having snap 
in the belfry,' said Dick. 

' Why, we've been traypsing and ram- 
bling about, looking everywhere like any- 
thing, and thinking you'd done fifty horrid 
things, and here have you been at nothing 
at all!' 

*The insult lies in the nothingness of 
tbe deed/ murmured Mr. Spink§» 


The vicarage garden was their next 
field of operation, and Mr. Maybold, the 
lately-arrived incumbent, duly received his 
share of the night's harmonies. It was hoped 
that by reason of his profession he would 
have been led to open the window, and an 
extra carol in quick time was added to draw 
him forth. But Mr. Maybold made no stir. 

* A bad sign !^ said old William, shaking 
his head. 

However, at that same instant a musi- 
cal voice was heard exclaiming from inner 
depths of bedclothes, 

* Thanks, villagers !' 

' What did he say T asked Bowman, 
who was rather dull of hearing. Bowman's 
voice, being therefore loud, had been heard 
by the vicar within. 

'I said, " Thanks, villagers!" ' cried the 
vicar again. 

'Beg yer pardon; didn^t hear ye the 
first time !' cried Bowman. 

* Now don't for heaven's sake spoil the 
young man's temper by answering like that'' 
said the tranter 


' You won't do that, my friends !* the 
vicar shouted. 

^ Well to be sure, what ears !' said Mr. 
Penny in a whisper. ' Beats any horse or 
dog in the parish, and depend upon't, that's 
a sign he's a proper clever chap.' 

'We shall see that in time,' said the 

Old William, in his gratitude for such 
thanks from a comparatively new inhabi- 
tant, was anxious to play all the tunes over 
again ; but renounced his desire on being 
reminded by Eeuben that it would be best 
to leave well alone. 

'Now putting two and two together,' 
the tranter continued, as they wended their 
way to the other portion of the village, 
' that is, in the form of that young vision we 
seed just now, and this young tinner- voiced 
parson, my belief is she'll wind en round 
her finger, and twist the pore young feller 
about like the figure of 8— that she will so, 
my sonnies.* 




The choir at last reached their beds, and 
slept like the rest of the parish. Dick's 
slumbers, through the three or four hours 
remaining for rest, were disturbed and 
slight ; an exhaustive variation upon the 
incidents that had passed that night in con- 
nection with the school-window going on in 
his brain every moment of the time. 

In the morning, do what he would — go 
upstairs, downstairs, out of doors, speak of 
the wind and weather, or what not — he 
could not refrain from an unceasing renewal, 
in imagination, of that interesting enactment. 
Tilted on the edge of one foot he stood 
beside the fireplace, watching his mother 
grilling rashers ; but there was nothing in 
grilling, he thought, unless the Vision 
grilled. The limp rasher hung down be- 
tween the bars of the gridiron like a cat in 
a child's arms; but there was nothing in 
similes. He looked at the daylight shadows 


of a yellow hue, dancing with the firelight 
shadows in blue on the whitewashed chim- 
ney corner, but there was nothing in 
shadows. ' Perhaps the new young worn — 
sch — Miss Fancy Day will sing in church 
with us this morning,' he said. 

The tranter looked a long time before 
he replied, ^ I fancy she will ; and yet I 
fancy she won't/ 

Dick implied that such a remark was 
rather to be tolerated than admired ; though 
the slight meagreness observable in the in- 
formation conveyed disappointed him less 
than may be expected, deliberateness in 
speech being known to have, as a rule, more 
to do with the machinery of the tranter's 
throat than with the matter enunciated. 

They made preparations for going to 
church as usual; Dick with extreme alac- 
rity, though he would not definitely con- 
sider why he was so religious. His won- 
derful nicety in brushing and cleaning his 
best light boots had features which ele- 
vated it to the rank of an art. Every 
particle and speck of last week's mud was 


scraped and brushed from toe and heel ; 
new blacking from the packet was carefully 
mixed and made use of, regardless of ex- 
pense. A coat was laid on and polished ; 
then another coat for increased blackness; 
and lastly a third, to give the perfect and 
mirror-like jet which the hoped-for ren- 
contre demanded. 

It being Christmas-day, the tranter 
prepared himself with Sunday particularity. 
Loud sousing and snorting noises were heard 
to proceed from the back quarters of the 
dwelling, proclaiming that he was there 
performing his great Sunday wash, lasting 
half an hour, to which his washings on 
working-day mornings were mere flashes in 
the pan. Vanishing into the outhouse with 
a large brown basin, and the above-named 
bubblings and snortings being carried on 
for about twenty minutes, the tranter would 
appear round the edge of the door, smelling 
like a summer fog, and looking as if he had 
just narrowly escaped a watery grave with 
the loss of hat and neckerchief, having since 
been weeping bitterly till his eyes were red; 


a crystal drop of water hanging ornament- 
ally at the bottom of each ear, one at the 
tip of his nose, and others in the form of 
spangles about his hair. 

After a great deal of crunching upon the 
sanded stone floor by the feet of father, son, 
and grandson as they moved to and fro in 
these preparations, the bass-viol and fiddles 
were taken from their nook, and the strings 
examined and screwed a httle above concert 
pitch, that they might keep their tone when 
service commenced, to obviate the awkward 
contingency of having to retune them at the 
back of the gallery during a cough, sneeze, 
or amen — an inconvenience which had been 
known to arise in damp wintry weather. 

The three left the door and paced down 
Mellstock-lane, bearing under their arms the 
instruments in faded green-baize bags, and 
old brown music-books in their hands ; Dick 
continually finding himself in advance of the 
other two, and the tranter moving on with 
toes turned outwards to an enormous angle. 

Seven human heads in a row were now 
observable over a hedge of laurel, which 


proved to be the choristers waiting ; sitting 
occasionally on the churchyard - wall and 
letting their heels dangle against it, to pass 
the time. The musicians beinof now in 
sight, the youthful party scampered off and 
rattled up the old wooden stairs of the gal- 
lery like a regiment of cavalry ; the other 
boys of the parish waiting outside looking 
at birds, cats, and other creatures till the 
vicar entered, when they suddenly subsided 
into sober church-goers, and passed down 
the aisle with echoing heels. 

The gallery of Mellstock Church had 
a status and sentiment of its own. A 
stranger there was regarded with a feeling 
altogether differing from that of the congre- 
gation below towards him. Banished from 
the nave as an intruder whom no originality 
could make interesting, he was received 
above as a curiosity that no unfitness could 
render dull. The gallery, too, looked down 
upon and knew the habits of the nave to its 
remotest peculiarity, and had an extensive 
stock of exclusive information about it ; 
whilst the nave knew nothing of the gallery 


people, as gallery people, beyond their loud- 
sounding minims and chest notes. Such 
topics as that the clerk was always chewing 
tobacco except at the moment of crying 
amen ; that he had a dust-hole in his pew ; 
that during the sermon certain young 
daughters of the village had left off caring 
to read anything so mild as the marriage 
service for some years, and now regularly 
studied the one which chronologically fol- 
lows it ; that a pair of lovers touched fin- 
gers through a knot-hole between their pews 
in the manner ordained by their great ex- 
emplars, Pyramus and Thisbe ; that Mrs. 
Ledlow, the farmer's wife, counted her 
money and reckoned her week's marketing 
expenses during the first lesson — all news 
to those below — were stale subjects here. 

Old "William sat in the centre of the 
front row, his violoncello between his knees 
and two singers on each hand. Behind 
him, on the left, came the treble singers and 
Dick ; and on the right the tranter and the 
tenors. Farther back was old Mail with 
the altos and supernumeraries. 


But before they had taken their places, 
and whilst they were standing in a circle at 
the back of the gallery practising a psalm 
or two, Dick cast his eyes over his grand- 
father's shoulder, and saw the vision of the 
past night enter the porch-door as methodi- 
cally as if she had never been a vision at 
all. A new atmosphere seemed suddenly to 
be puffed into the ancient edifice by her 
movement, which made Dick's body and 
soul tingle with novel sensations. Directed 
by Shinar, the churchwarden, she proceeded 
to the short aisle on the north side of the 
chancel, a spot now allotted to a throng of 
Sunday-school girls, and distinctly visible 
from the gallery -front by looking under 
the curve of the furthermost arch on that 

Before this moment the church had 
seemed comparatively empty — now it was 
thronged ; and as Miss Fancy rose from her 
knees and looked around her for a perma- 
nent place in which to deposit herself — fin- 
ally choosing the remotest corner — Dick 
began to breathe more freely the warm new 


air she had brought with her ; to feel rush- 
ings of blood, and to have impressions that 
there was a tie between her and himself 
visible to all the cono^reo^ation. 

Ever afterwards the young man could 
recollect individually each part of the ser- 
vice of that bright Christmas morning, and 
the minute occurrences which took place as 
its hours slowly drew along ; the duties of 
that day dividing themselves by a complete 
line from the services of other times. The 
tunes they that morning essayed remained 
with him for years, apart from all others; 
also the text; also the appearance of the 
layer of dust upon the capitals of the piers ; 
that the holly-bough in the chancel archway 
was hung a little out of the centre — all the 
ideas, in short, that creep into the mind 
when reason is only exercising its lowest 
activity through the eye. 

By chance or by fate, another young 
man who attended Mellstock Church on that 
Christmas morning had towards the end of 
the service the same instinctive perception 
of an interesting presence, in the shape of 


the same bright maiden, though his emotion 
reached a far less - developed stage. And 
there was this difference, too, that the per- 
son in question was surprised at his condi- 
tion, and sedulously endeavoured to reduce 
himself to his normal state of mind. He 
was the young vicar, Mr. Maybold. 

The music on Christmas mornings was 
frequently below the standard of church-per- 
formances at other times. The boys were 
sleepy from the heavy exertions of the 
night ; the men were slightly wearied ; and 
now, in addition to these constant reasons, 
there was a dampness in the atmosphere 
that still farther aggravated the evil. Their 
strings, from the recent long exposure to 
the night air, rose whole semitones, and 
snapped with a loud twang at the most 
silent moment; which necessitated more re- 
tiring than ever to the back of the gallery, 
and made the gallery throats quite husky 
with the quantity of coughing and hemming 
required for tuning in. The vicar looked 

When the singing was in progress, there 


was suddenly discovered to be a strong and 
shrill reinforcement from some point, ulti- 
mately found to be the school-girls' aisle. 
At every attempt it grew bolder and more 
distinct. At the third time of singing, these 
intrusive feminine voices were as mighty as 
those of the regular singers; in fact, the 
flood of sound from this quarter assumed 
such an individuality, that it had a time, a 
key, almost a tune of its own, surging up- 
wards when the gallery plunged downwards, 
and the reverse. 

Now this had never happened before 
within the memory of man. The girls, like 
the rest of the congregation, had always 
been humble and respectful followers of the 
gallery ; singing at sixes and sevens if with- 
out gallery leaders ; never interfering with 
the ordinances of these practised artists — 
having no will, union, power, or proclivity 
except it was given them from the estab- 
lished choir enthroned above them. 

A good deal of desperation became no- 
ticeable in the gallery throats and strings, 
which continued throughout the musical 


portion of the service. Directly the fiddles 
were laid down, Mr. Penny's spectacles put 
in their sheath, and the text had been given 
out, an indignant whispering began. 

^Did ye hear that, souls?' Mr. Penny 
said in a groaning breath. 

^ Brazen-faced hussies !' said Bowman. 

'Trew; why, they were every note as 
loud as we, fiddles and all, if not louder.' 

* Fiddles and all/ echoed Bowman bit- 

' Shall anything bolder be found than 
united woman?' Mr. Spinks murmured. 

* What I want to know is,' said the tran- 
ter (as if he knew already, but that civilisa- 
tion required the form of words), 'what 
business people have to tell maidens to sing 
like that when they don't sit in a gallery, 
and never have entered one in their lives? 
That's the question, my sonnies.' 

^'Tis the gallery have got to sing, all 
the world knows,' said Mr. Penny. ' Why, 
souls, what's the use o' the ancients spend- 
ing scores of pounds to build galleries if 
people down in the lowest depths of the 


church sing like that at a moment's no- 

* Keally, I think we useless ones had 
better march out of church, fiddles and all!' 
said Mr. Spinks, with a laugh which, to a 
stranger, would have sounded mild and real. 
Only the initiated body of men he addressed 
could understand the horrible bitterness of 
u'ony that lurked under the quiet words 
^ useless ones,' and the ghasthness of the 
laughter apparently so natural. . 

' Never mind ! Let 'em sing too — 'twill 
make it all the louder — hee, hee !' said 

' Thomas Leaf, Thomas Leaf ! Where 
have you lived all your life?' said grand- 
father William sternly. 

The quailing Leaf tried to look as if he 
had lived nowhere at all. 

* When all's said and done, my sonnies,* 
Eeuben said, 'there'd have been no real 
harm in their singing if they had let no- 
body hear 'em, and only jined in now and 

'None at all,' said Mr. Penny. 'But 


though I don't wish to accuse people 
wrongfully, I'd say before my lord judge 
that I could hear every note o' that last 
psalm come from 'em as much as from us 
— every note as if 'twas their own.' 

' Know it ! ah, I should think I did 
know it !' Mr. Spinks was heard to observe 
at this moment, without reference to his fel- 
low-creatures — shaking his head at some 
idea he seemed to see floating before him, 
and smiling as if he were attending a fune- 
ral at the time. ^ Ah, do I or don't I know 


No one said * Know what?' because all 
were aware from experience that what he 
knew would declare itself in process of 

' I could fancy last night that we should 
have some trouble wi' that young man,* 
said the tranter, pending the continuance 
of Spinks' s speech, and looking towards 
the unconscious Mr. Maybold in the pul- 

' / fancy,' said old William, rather se- 
verely, ' I fancy there's too mucb whisper- 


in^ going on to be of any spiritual use to 
gentle or simple.' Then folding his lips and 
concentrating his glance on the vicar, he 
implied that none but the ignorant would 
speak again ; and accordingly there was 
silence in the gallery, Mr. Spinks's telling 
speech remaining for ever unspoken. 

Dick had said nothing, and the tranter 
little, on this episode of the morning; for 
Mrs. Dewy at breakfast expressed it as 
her intention to invite the youthful leader 
of the culprits to the small party it was 
customary with them to have on Christmas- 
night — a piece of knowledge which had 
given a particular brightness to Dick's re- 
flections since he had received it. And in 
the tranter's slightly cynical nature, party 
feeling was weaker than in the other mem- 
bers of the choir, though friendliness and 
faithful partnership still sustained in him 
a hearty earnestness on their accouiit. 



THE tranter's PARTY. 

During the afternoon unusual activity 
was seen to prevail about the precincts of 
tranter Dewy's house. The flagstone floor 
was swept of dust, and a sprinkling of the 
finest yellow sand from the innermost stra- 
tum of the adjoining sand-pit lightly scattered 
thereupon. Then were produced large knives 
and forks, which had been shrouded in 
darkness and grease since the last occasion 
of the kind, and bearing upon their sides, 
' Shear-steel, warranted,' in such emphatic 
letters of assurance, that the cutler's name 
was not required as further proof, and not 
given. The key was left in the tap of the 
cider-barrel, instead of being carried in a 
pocket. And finally the tranter had to 
stand up in the room and let his wife wheel 
him round like a turnstile, to see if anything 
discreditable was visible in his appearance. 

' Stand still till I've been for the scis- 
sors,' said Mrs. Dewy. 


The tranter stood as still as a sentinel 
at the challenge. 

The only repairs necessary were a trim- 
ming of one or two whiskers that had ex- 
tended beyond the general contour of the 
mass ; a like trimming of a slightly frayed 
edge visible on his shirt-collar; and a final 
tug at a gray hair — to all of which opera- 
tions he submitted in resigned silence, ex- 
cept the last, which produced a mild ' Come, 
come, Ann,' by way of expostulation. 

* Really, Reuben, 'tis quite a disgrace to 
see such a man,' said Mrs. Dewy, with the 
severity justifiable in a long - tried com- 
panion, giving him another turn round, and 
picking several of Smiler's hairs from the 
shoulder of his coat. Reuben's thoughts 
seemed engaged elsewhere, and he yawned. 
' And the collar of your coat is a shame to 
behold — so plastered with dirt, or dust, or 
grease, or something. Why, wherever could 
you have got it?' 

' 'Tis my warm nater in summer-time, 
I suppose. I always did get in such a heat 
when I bustle about.' 


' Ay, the Dewys always were such a 
coarse -skinned family. There's your bro- 
ther Bob — as fat as a porpoise — just as 
bad; wi' his low, mean, "How'st do, Ann?" 
whenever he meets me. I'd " How'st do'* 
him, indeed ! If the sun only shines out a 
minute, there be you all streaming in the 
face — I never see!' 

' If I be hot week-days, I must be hot 

' If any of the girls should turn after 
their father 'twill be a poor look-out for 
'em, poor things ! None of my family was 
sich vulgar perspirers, not one of 'em. But, 
Lord-a-mercy, the Dewys! I don't know 
how ever I came into such a family.' 

' Your woman's weakness when I asked 
ye to jine us. That's how it was, I suppose ;' 
but the tranter appeared to have heard 
some such words from his wife before, and 
hence his answer had not the energy it 
might have possessed if the inquiry had 
possessed the charm of novelty. 

'You never did look so well in a pair 
o' trousers as in them,' she continued in 


the same unimpassioned voice, so that the un- 
friendly criticism of the Dewy family seemed 
to have been more normal than spontaneous. 
* Such a cheap pair as 'twas too. As big 
as any man could wish to have, and lined 
inside, and double-lined in the lower parts, 
and an extra piece of stiffening at the bot- 
tom. And 'tis a nice high cut that comes 
up right under your armpits, and there's 
enough turned down inside the seams to 
make half a pair more, besides a piece of 
stuff left that will make an honest waist- 
coat — all by my contriving in buying the 
stuff at a bargain, and having it made up 
under my eye. It only shows what may 
be done by taking a little trouble, and not 
going straight to the rascally tailors.' 

The discourse was cut short by the 
sudden appearance of Charley on the scene 
with a face and hands of hideous blackness, 
and a nose guttering like a candle. Why, 
on that particularly cleanly afternoon, he 
should have discovered that the chimney- 
crook and chain from which the hams were 
suspended should have possessed more merits 


and general interest as playthings than any 
other article in the house, is a question for 
nursing mothers to decide. However, the 
humour seemed to lie in the result being, 
as has been seen, that any given player 
with these articles was in the long-run 
daubed with soot. The last that was seen 
of Charley by daylight after this piece of 
ingenuity was when in the act of vanishing 
from his father's presence round the corner 
of the house, — looking back over his shoul- 
der with an expression of great sin on his 
face, like Cain as the Outcast in Bible pic- 

The guests had all assembled, and the 
tranter's party had reached that degree of 
development which accords with ten o'clock 
P.M. in rural assemblies. At that hour the 
sound of a fiddle in process of tuning was 
heard from the inner pantry. 

' That's Dick,' said the tranter. * That 
lad's crazy for a jig.' 

* Dick ! Now I cannot — really, I can- 
not allow any dancing at all till Christmas- 


day is out,' said old William emphatically. 
* When the clock ha' done striking twelve, 
dance as much as ye like.' 

* Well, I must say there's reason in that, 
William,' said Mrs. Penny. ' If you do 
have a party on Christmas- day-night, 'tis 
only fair and honourable to the Church of 
England to have it a sit -still party. Jig- 
ging parties be all very well, and this, that, 
and therefore; but a jigging party looks 
suspicious. 0, yes ; stop till the clock 
strikes, young folk — so say I.' 

It happened that some warm mead ac- 
cidentally got into Mr. Spinks's head about 
this time. 

' Dancing,' he said, ' is a most strength- 
ening, enlivening, and courting movement, 
especially with a little beverage added ! And 
dancing is good. But why disturb what 
is ordained, Eichard and Reuben, and the 
company zhinerally ? Why, I ask, as far 
as that goes ?' 

* Then nothing till after twelve,' said 

Though Reuben and his wife ruled on 


social points, religious questions were mostly 
disposed of by the old man, whose firmness 
on this head quite counterbalanced a cer- 
tain weakness in his handling of domestic 
matters. The hopes of the younger mem- 
bers of the household were therefore rele- 
gated to a distance of one hour and three- 
quarters — a result that took visible shape 
in them by a remote and listless look about 
the eyes — the singing of songs being per- 
mitted in the interim. 

At five minutes to twelve the soft tun- 
ing was again heard in the back quarters ; 
and when at length the clock had whizzed 
forth the last stroke, Dick appeared ready 
primed, and the instruments were boldly 
handled; old William very readily taking 
the bass-viol from its accustomed nail, and 
touching the strings as irreligiously as could 
be desired. 

The country-dance called the 'Triumph, 
or Follow my Lover,' was the figure with 
which they opened. The tranter took for 
his partner Mrs. Penny, and Mrs. Dewy 
was chosen by Mr. Penny, who made so 


much of his limited height by a judicious 
carriage of the head, straightening of the 
back, and important flashes of his spectacle- 
glasses, that he seemed almost as tall as 
the tranter. Mr. Shinar, age about thirty- 
five, farmer and churchwarden, a character 
principally composed of watch-chain, with 
a mouth always hanging on a smile but 
never smiling, had come quite willingly to 
the party, and showed a wondrous oblivi- 
ousness of all his antics on the previous 
night. But the comely, slender, prettily- 
dressed prize Fancy Day fell to Dick's lot, 
in spite of some private machinations of the 
farmer, for the reason that Mr. Shinar, as a 
richer man, had shown too much assurance 
in asking the favour, whilst Dick had been 
duly courteous. 

We gain a good view of our heroine as 
she advances to her place in the ladies' line. 
She belonged to the taller division of mid- 
dle height. Flexibility was her first cha- 
racteristic, by which she appeared to enjoy 
the most easeful rest when she was in 
gliding motion. Her dark eyes — arched by 


brows of so keen, slender, and soft a curve, 
that they resembled nothing so much as two 
slurs in music — showed primarily a bright 
sparkle each. This was softened by a fre- 
quent though tfulness, yet not so frequent as 
to do away, for more than a few minutes at 
a time, with a certain coquettishness ; which 
in its turn was never so decided as to banish 
honesty. Her lips imitated her brows in their 
clearly- cut outline and softness of curve; 
and her nose was well shaped — which is say- 
ing a great deal, when it is remembered that 
there are a hundred pretty mouths and 
eyes for one pretty nose. Add to this, plen- 
tiful knots of dark-brown hair, a gauzy dress 
of white, with blue facings ; and the slight- 
est idea may be gained of the young maiden 
who showed, amidst the rest of the dancing- 
ladies, like a flower among vegetables. And 
so the dance proceeded. Mr. Shinar, accord- 
ing to the interesting rule laid down, de- 
serted his own partner, and made off down 
the middle with this fair one of Dick's — the 
pair appearing from the top of the room 
like two persons tripping dowii a lane to be 


married. Dick trotted behind with what 
was intended to be a look of composure, but 
which was, in fact, a rather silly expression 
of feature — implying, with too much earnest- 
ness, that such an elopement could not be 
tolerated. Then they turned and came back, 
when Dick o^rew more rio;id around his 
mouth, and blushed with ingenuous ardour 
as he joined hands with the rival and formed 
the arch over his lady's head ; relinquishing 
her again at setting to partners, when Mr. 
Shinar's new chain quivered in every link, 
and all the loose flesh upon the tranter — 
who here came into action again — shook 
like jelly. Mrs. Penny, being always rather 
concerned for her personal safety when she 
danced with the tranter, fixed her face to 
a chronic smile of timidity the whole time 
it lasted — a peculiarity which filled her fea- 
tures with wrinkles, and reduced her eyes 
to little straight lines like hyphens, as she 
jigged up and down opposite him; repeating 
in her own person not only his proper move- 
ments, but also the minor flourishes which 
the richness of the tranter's imagination led 


him to introduce from time to time — an 
imitation which had about it something of 
slavish obedience, not unmixed with fear. 

The ear-rings of the ladies now flung 
themselves wildly about, turning violent 
summersaults, banging this way and that, 
and then swinging quietly against the ears 
sustaining them. Mrs. Grumpier — a heavy 
woman, who, for some reason which nobody 
ever thought worth inquiry, danced in a 
clean apron — moved so smoothly through 
the figure that her feet were never seen; 
conveying to imaginative minds the idea 
that she rolled on castors. 

Minute after minute glided by, and the 
party reached the period when ladies' back- 
hair begins to look forgotten and dissipated; 
when a perceptible dampness makes itself 
apparent upon the faces even of delicate 
girls — a ghastly dew having for some time 
rained from the features of their masculine 
partners; when skirts begin to be torn out 
of their gathers ; when elderly people, who 
have stood up to please their juniors, begin 
to feel sundry small tremblings in the re- 


gion of the knees, and to wish the inter- 
minable da^ice was at Jericho; when (at 
country parties) waistcoats begin to be un- 
buttoned, and when the fiddlers' chairs have 
been wriggled, by the frantic bowing of their 
occupiers, to a distance of about two feet 
from where they originally stood. 

Fancy was dancing with Mr. Shinar. 
Dick knew that Fancy, by the law of good 
manners, was bound to dance as pleasantly 
with one partner as with another; yet he 
could not help suggesting to himself that 
she need not have put quite so much spirit 
into her steps, nor smiled quite so frequently 
whilst in the farmer's hands. 

'I'm afraid you didn't cast ofi^,' said 
Dick mildly to Mr. Shinar, before the latter 
man's watch-chain had done vibrating from 
a recent whirl. 

Fancy made a motion of accepting the 
correction; but her partner took no no- 
tice, and proceeded with the next move- 
ment, with an affectionate bend towards her. 

' That Shinar's too fond of her,' the 
young man said to himself as he watched 


them. They came to the top again, Fancy 
smiling warmly towards her partner, and 
went to their places. 

'Mr. Shinar, you didn't cast off/ said 
Dick, for want of something else to demolish 
him mth; casting off himself, and being 
put out at the farmer's irregularity. 

' Perhaps I shan't cast off for any man,* 
said Mr. Shinar. 

' I think you ought to, sir.* 

Dick's partner, a young lady of the 
name of Lizzy — called Lizz for short — 
tried to mollify. 

' I can't say that I myself have much 
feeling for casting off,' she said. 

' Nor I,* said Mrs. Penny, following up 
the argument ; ' especially if a friend and 
naibour is set against it. Not but that 'tis 
a terrible tasty thing in good hands and 
well done ; yes, indeed, so say L' 

'All I meant was,' said Dick, rather 
sorry that he had spoken correctingly to a 
guest, ' that 'tis in the dance ; and a man 
has hardly any right to hack and mangle 
what was ordained by the regular dance- 


maker, who, I daresay, got his living by- 
making 'em, and thought of nothing else 
all his life.' 

* I don't like casting off : then very 
well; I cast off for no dance -maker that 
ever lived.' 

Dick now appeared to be doing mental 
arithmetic, the act being reaUy an effort to 
present to himself, in an abstract form, how 
far an argument with a formidable rival 
ought to be carried, when that rival was 
his mother's guest. The dead-lock was put 
an end to by the stamping arrival up the 
middle of the tranter, who, despising mi- 
nutiae on principle, started a theme of his 

* I assure you, naibours,' he said, ^ the 
heat of my frame no tongue can tell !' He 
looked around, and endeavoured to give, 
by a forcible gaze of self - sympathy, some 
faint idea of the truth. 

Mrs. Dewy formed one of the next 

' Yes,' she said in an auxiliary tone, 
' Reuben always was such a hot man.' 


Mrs. Penny implied the correct species 
of sympathy that such a class of affliction 
required, by trying to smile and to look 
grieved at the same time. 

* If he only walk round the garden of a 
Sunday morning, his shirt-collar is as limp 
as no starch at all,' continued Mrs. Dewy, 
her countenance lapsing parenthetically into 
a housewifely expression of concern at the 

* Come, come, you wimmen-folk; 'tis 
hands-across — come, come!' said the tran- 
ter; and the conversation ceased for the 



Dick had at length secured Fancy for 
that most delightful of country-dances, be- 
ginning with six-hands-round. 

* Before we begin,' said the tranter, 
*my proposal is, that 'twould be a right 
and proper plan for every martel man in 


the dance to pull off his jacket, considering 
the heat.' 

' Such low notions as you have, Reuben! 
Nothing but strip will go down with you 
when you are a-dancing. Such a hot man 
as he is !' 

* Well, now, look here, my sonnies,' he 
argued to his wife, whom he often addressed 
in the plural masculine for convenience of 
epithet merely; ^I don't see that. You 
dance and get hot as fire; therefore you 
lighten your clothes. Isn't that nater and 
reason for gentle and simple ? If I strip by 
myself and not necessary, 'tis rather pot- 
housey, I own ; but if we stout chaps strip 
one and all, why, 'tis the native manners of 
the country, which no man can gainsay. 
Hey — what do you say, my somiies?' 

'Strip we will!' said the three other 
heavy men; and their coats were accord- 
ingly taken off and hung in the passage, 
whence the four sufferers from heat soon 
reappeared, marching in close column, with 
flapping shirt- sleeves, and having, as com- 
mon to them all, a general glance of being 


now a match for any man or dancer in 
England or Ireland. Dick, fearing to lose 
ground in Fancy's good opinion, retained 
his coat ; and Mr. Shinar did the same from 
superior knowledge. 

And now a further phase of rural revelry 
had disclosed itself. It was the time of 
night when a guest may write his name in 
the dust upon the tables and chairs, and a 
bluish mist pervades the atmosphere, be- 
coming a distinct halo round the candles; 
when people's nostrils, wrinkles, and cre- 
vices in general, seem to be getting gradu- 
ally plastered up ; when the very fiddlers as 
well as the dancers get red in the face, the 
dancers having advanced farther still towards 
incandescence, and entered the cadaverous 
phase ; the fiddlers no longer sit down, but 
kick back their chairs and saw madly at the 
strmgs, with legs firmly spread and eyes 
closed, regardless of the visible world. 
Again and again did Dick share his Love's 
hand with another man, and wheel round; 
then, more delightfully, promenade in a cir- 
cle with her all to himself, his arm holding her 


waist more firmly each time, and liis elbow 
getting farther and farther behind her back, 
till the distance reached was rather notice- 
able ; and, most blissful, swinging to places 
shoulder to shoulder, her breath curling 
round his neck like a summer zephyr that 
had strayed from its proper date. Thread- 
ing the couples one by one they reached 
the bottom, when there arose in Dick's 
mind a minor misery lest the tune should 
end before they could work their way to 
the top again, and have anew the same ex- 
citing run down through. Dick's feelings 
on actually reaching the top in spite of his 
doubts were supplemented by a mortal fear 
that the fiddling might even stop at this 
supreme moment ; which prompted him to 
convey a stealthy whisper to the far-gone 
musicians, to the efi*ect that they were not 
to leave off till he and his partner had 
reached the bottom of the dance once more, 
which remark was rephed to by the nearest 
of those convulsed and quivering men by a 
private nod to the anxious young man be- 
tween two semiquavers of the tune, and a 


simultaneous ' All right, ay, ay,^ without 
opening his eyes. Fancy was now held so 
closely, that Dick and she were practically 
one person. The room became to Dick like 
a picture in a dream ; all that he could re- 
member of it afterwards being the look of 
the fiddlers going to sleep, as humming-tops 
sleep — by increasing their motion and hum, 
together with the figures of grandfather 
James and old Simon Grumpier sitting by 
the chimney-corner, talking and nodding 
in dumb-show, and beating the air to their 
emphatic sentences like people in a railway 

The dance ended. *Piph-h-h-hr said 
tranter Dewy, blowing out his breath in 
the very finest stream of vapour that a 
man's lips could form. ' A regular tightener, 
that one, sonnies!' He wiped his forehead, 
and went to the cider-mug on the table. 

* Well !' said Mrs. Penny, flopping into a 
chair, ^my heart haven't been in such a 
thumping state of uproar since I used to sit 
up on old Midsummer-eves to see who my 
husband was going to be.* 


' And that's getting on for a good few- 
years ago now, from what I've heard you 
tell,' said the tranter without lifting his eyes 
from the cup he was filling. Being now 
engaged in the business of handing round 
refreshments, he was warranted in keeping 
his coat off still, though the other heavy 
men had resumed theirs. 

' And a thing I never expected would 
come to pass, if you'll believe me, cam to 
pass then,' continued Mrs. Penny. ' Ah, 
the first spirit ever I see on a Midsummer- 
eve was a puzzle to me when he appeared, 
a hard puzzle, so say I !' 

' So I should have imagined ; as far as 
that goes,' said EHas Spinks. 

'Yes,' said Mrs. Penny, throwing her 
glance into past times, and talking on in a 
running tone of complacent abstraction, as 
if a listener were not a necessity. ' Yes ; 
never was I in such a taking as on that 
Midsummer-eve ! I sat up, quite deter- 
mined to see if John Wild way was going to 
marry me or no. I put the bread-and- 
cheese and cider quite ready, as the witch's 


book ordered, and I opened the door, and I 
waited till the clock struck twelve, my 
nerves all alive, and so distinct that I could 
feel every one of 'em twitching like bell- 
wires. Yes, sure ! and when the clock had 
struck, lo and behold, I could see through 
the door a little small man in the lane wi' 
a shoemaker's apron on.' 

Here Mr. Penny stealthily enlarged 
himself half an inch. 

'Now John Wildway,' Mrs. Penny con- 
tinued, ' who courted me at that time, was a 
shoemaker, you see, but he was a very fair- 
sized man, and I couldn't believe that any 
such a little small man had anything to do 
wi' me, as anybody might. But on he came, 
and crossed the threshold — not John, but 
actually the same little small man in the 
shoemaker's apron — ' 

' You needn't be so mighty particular 
about little and small!' said her husband, 
pecking the air with his nose. 

' In he walks, and down he sits, and 
my goodness me, didn't I flee upstairs, 
body and soul hardly hanging together! 


Well, to cut a long story short, by -long 
and by-late, John Wildway and I had a 
miff and parted; and lo and behold, the 
coming man came ! Penny asked me if I'd 
go snacks with him, and afore I knew what 
I was about a'most, the thing was done.' 

' I've fancied you never knew better in 
your life ; but I may be mistaken/ said 
Mr. Penny in a murmur. 

After Mrs. Penny had spoken, there 
being no new occupation for her eyes, she 
still let them stay idling on the past scenes 
just related, which were apparently visible 
to her in the candle- flame. Mr. Penny's 
remark received no reply. 

During this discourse the tranter and 
his wife might have been observed standing 
in an unobtrusive corner, in mysterious 
closeness to each other, a just perceptible 
current of intelligence passing from each to 
each, which had apparently no relation 
whatever to the conversation of their guests, 
but much to their sustenance. A conclu- 
sion of some kind having at length been 
dra^.Yn. the palpable confederacy of man 


and wife was once more obliterated, the 
tranter marching off into the pantry, 
humming a tune that he couldn't quite 
recollect, and then breaking into the words 
of a song of which he could remember about 
one line and a quarter. Mrs. Dewy men- 
tioned a few words about preparations for 
a bit of supper. 

That portion of the company which 
loved eating and drinking then put on a 
look to signify that till that moment they 
had quite forgotten that it was customary 
to eat suppers in this climate ; going even 
farther than this politeness of feature, and 
abruptly starting irrelevant subjects, the 
exceeding flatness and forced tone of which 
rather betrayed their object. The younger 
members said they were quite hungry, and 
that supper would be delightful though it 
was so late. 

Good luck attended Dick's love-passes 
during the meal. He sat next Fancy, and 
had the thrilling pleasure of using perman- 
ently a glass which had been taken by 
Fancy in mistake ; of letting the outer 


edo-e of the sole of his boot touch the 
lower verge of her skirt; and to add to 
these delights, a cat, which had lain un- 
observed in her lap for several minutes, 
crept across into his own, touching him 
with the same portion of fur that had 
touched her hand a moment before. Besides 
these, there were some little pleasures in 
the shape of helping her to vegetable she 
didn't want, and when it had nearly alighted 
on her plate, taking it across for his own 
use, on the plea of waste not, want not. He 
also, from time to time, sipped sweet sly 
glances at her profile; noticing the set of 
her head, the curve of her throat, and other 
artistic properties of the lively goddess, who 
the while kept up a rather free, not to say 
too free, conversation with Mr. Shinar sit- 
ting opposite ; which, after some uneasy 
criticism, and much shifting of argument 
backwards and forwards in Dick's mind, he 
decided not to consider of alarming signifi- 

* A new music greets our ears now,' said 
Miss Fancy, alluding, with the sharpness 


that her position as village sharpener de- 
manded, to the contrast between the rattle 
of knives and forks and the late notes of the 

' Ay ; and I don't know but that *tis 
sweeter in tone when you get above forty/ 
said the tranter ; * except, in faith, 'tis as re- 
gards father there : never such a martel man 
as he for tunes. They move his soul; don't 
'em, father?' 

The eldest Dewy smiled across from his 
distant chair an assent to Reuben's remark. 

' Spaking of being moved in soul,' said 
Mr. Penny, ' I shall never forget the first 
time I heard the " Dead March." 'Twas at 
poor Corp'l Nineman's funeral at Caster- 
bridge. It fairly made my hair creep and 
fidget about like a flock of sheep — ah, it 
did, souls ! And when they had done, and 
the last trump had sounded, and the guns 
was fired over the dead hero's grave, an icy- 
cold drop of moist sweat hung upon my 
forehead, and another upon my jawbone. 
Ah, 'tis a very solemn thing !' 

* Well, as to father in the corner there,' 


the tranter said, pointing to old William, 
who was in the act of filling his mouth ; 
'he'd starve to death for music's sake now, 
as much as when he was a boy -chap of 

' Truly, now,' said Michael Mail, clearing 
the corner of his throat in the manner of a 
man who meant to be convincing ; ' there's 
a friendly tie of some sort between music 
and eating.* He lifted the cup to his mouth, 
and drank himself gradually backwards from 
a perpendicular position to a slanting one, 
during which time his looks performed a 
circuit from the wall opposite him to the 
ceiling overhead. Then clearing the other 
corner of his throat: ' Once I was sittins: in 
the little kitchen of the Three Chouo-hs at 
Casterbridge, having a bit of dinner, and a 
brass band struck up in the street. Sich a 
beautiful band as that were ! I was sittino- 
eating fried liver and lights, I well can 
mind — ah, I was! and to save my life, I 
couldn't help chawing to the tune. Band 
played six-eight time; six-eight chaws I, 
willynilly. Band plays common j common 


time went my teeth among the fried liver 
and lights as true as a hair. Beautiful 
'twere ! Ah, I shall never forget that there 

* That's as musical a circumstance as ever 
I heard of,' said grandfather James, with 
the absent gaze which accompanies pro- 
found criticism. 

* I don't like Michael's musical circum- 
sitances then,' said Mrs. Dewy. ' They are 
quite coarse to a person of decent taste.* 

Old Michael's mouth twitched here and 
there, as if he wanted to smile but didn't 
know where to begin, which gradually set- 
tled to an expression that it was not dis- 
pleasing for a nice woman like the tranter's 
wife to correct him. 

* Well, now,' said Reuben, with decisive 
earnestness, ^ that coarseness that's so up- 
setting to Ann's feelings is to my mind a 
recommendation ; for it do always prove a 
story to be true. And for the same reason, 
I like a story with a bad moral. My sonnies, 
all true stories have a coarseness or a bad 
moral, depend upon't. If the story-tellers 


could have got decency and good morals 
from true stories, who'd ha' troubled to in- 
vent parables ?' Saying this the tranter arose 
to fetch a new stock of cider, mead, and 
home-made wines. 

Mrs. Dew}^ sighed, and appended a re- 
mark (ostensibly behind her husband's back, 
though that the words should reach his ears 
distinctly was understood by both) : ' Such 
a man as Dewy is ! nobody do know the 
trouble I have to keep that man barely re- 
spectable. And did you ever hear too — 
just now at supper- time — talking about 
"taties" with Michael in such a labourer's 
way. Well, 'tis what I was never brought 
up to! With our family 'twas never less 
than " taters,'' and very often " pertatoes" 
outright ; mother was so particular and nice 
with us girls : there was no family in the 
parish that kept theirselves up more than 

The hour of parting came. Fancy could 
not remain for the night, because she had 
engaged a woman to wait up for her. She 
disappeared temporarily from the flagging 


party of dancers, and then came downstairs 
wrapped up and looking altogether a differ- 
ent person from whom she had been hither- 
to, in fact (to Dick's sadness and disap- 
pointment), a woman somewhat reserved 
and of a phlegmatic temperament — nothing 
left in her of the romping girl that she had 
been but a short quarter-hour before, who 
had not minded the weight of Dick's hand 
upon her waist, nor shirked the purlieus of 
the mistletoe. 

' What a contradiction !' thought the 
young man — hoary cynic 'pro tern, ^ What 
a miserable delusive contradiction between 
the manners of a maid's life at dancing times 
and at others I Look at this idol Fancy ! dur- 
ing the whole past evening touchable, press- 
able — even kissable. For whole half-hours 
I held her so close to me that not a sheet 
of paper could have been slipped between 
us; and I could feel her heart only just out- 
side my own, her existence going on so 
close to mine, that I was aware of every 
breath in it. A flit is made to the bedroom 
— a hat and a cloak put on — and I no more 


dare to touch her than — ' Thouo-ht failed 
him, and he returned to life. 

But this was an endurable misery in 
comparison with what followed. Mr. Shinar 
and his watch-chain, taking the intrusive ad- 
vantage that ardent males who are going 
homeward along the same road as a pretty- 
young female always do take of that cir- 
cumstance, came forward to assure Fancy 
— with a total disregard of Dick's emotions, 
and in tones which were certainly not frigid 
— that he (Shinar) was not the man to go 
to bed before seeing his Lady Fair safe 
within her own door — not he : nobody 
should say he was that ; — and that he would 
not leave her side an inch till the thing was 
done — drown him if he would. The pro- 
posal was assented to by Miss Day, in Dick's 
foreboding judgment with one degree — or 
at any rate, an appreciable fraction of a 
degree — of warmth beyond that required by 
a disinterested desire for protection from 
the dangers of the night. 

All was over; and Dick surveyed the 
chair she had last occupied, looking now 


like a setting from which the gem has been 
torn. There stood her glass, and the ro- 
mantic teaspoonful of elder wine at the bot- 
tom that she couldn't drink by trying ever 
so hard, in obedience to the mighty argu- 
ments of the tranter (his hand coming 
down upon her shoulder the while, like a 
Nasmyth hammer) ; but the drinker was 
there no longer. There were the nine or 
ten pretty little crumbs she had left on her 
plate ; but the eater was no more seen. 

There seemed to be a disagreeable close- 
ness of relationship between himself and the 
members of his family, now that they were 
left alone again face to face. His father 
seemed quite offensive for appearing to be 
in just as high spirits as when the guests 
were there ; and as for grandfather James 
(who had not yet left), he was quite fiendish 
in being rather glad they were gone. 

' Really,' said the tranter, in a tone of 
placid satisfaction, * I've had so little time 
to attend to myself all the evenen, that I 
mane to enjoy a quiet meal now! A slice 
of this here ham — neither too fat nor too 


lane — so ; and then a drop of this vinegar 
and pickles — there, that's it — and I «hall 
be as fresh as a lark again ! And to tell 
the truth, my sonny, my inside H^e a-been 
as dry as a lime -basket all night.' 

' I like a party very well,' said Mrs. 
Dewy, leaving oflp the adorned tones she 
had been bound to use throughout the 
evening, and returning to the natural mar- 
riage voice ; ' but, lord, 'tis such a sight of 
heavy work next day ! And what with the 
plates, and knives and forks, and bits kicked 
off your furniture, and I don't know what- 
all, why a body could a'most wish there 
were no such things as Christmases, Ah-h 
dear !' she yawned, till the clock in the 
corner had ticked several beats. She cast 
her eyes round upon the dust-laden fur- 
niture, and sank down overpowered at the 

' Well, I be getting all right by degrees, 
thank the Lord for't !' said the tranter 
cheerfully through a mangled mass of ham 
and bread, without lifting his eyes from his 
plate, and chopping away with his knife 


and fork as if he were felling trees. ' Ann, 
you may as well go on to bed at once, and 
not bide there making such sleepy faces; 
you look as long-favoured as a fiddle, upon 
my life, Ann. There, you must be wearied 
out, ^tis true. I'll do the doors and wind 
up the clock ; and you go on, or you'll be as 
white as a sheet to-morrow.' 

' Ay ; I don't know whether I sha'n't or 
no.* The matron passed her hand across 
her eyes to brush away the film of sleep till 
she got upstairs. 

Dick wondered how it was that when 
people were married they could be so bhnd 
to romance; and was quite certain that if 
he ever took to wife that dear impossible 
Fancy, he and she would never be so dread- 
fully practical and undemonstrative of the 
Passion as his father and mother were. The 
most extraordinary thing was, that all the 
fathers and mothers he knew were just as 
undemonstrative as his own. 




The early days of the year drew on, and 
Fancy, having passed the holiday weeks at 
home, returned again to Mellstock. 

Every spare minute of the week follow- 
ing her return was spent by Dick in acci- 
dentally passing the school-house in his 
journeys about the neighbourhood; but not 
once did she make herself visible. A hand- 
kerchief belonging to her had been provi- 
dentially found by his mother in clearing 
the rooms the day after that of the dance ; 
and by much contrivance Dick got it handed 
over to him, to leave with her at any time 
he was passing the school after her return. 
But he delayed taking the extreme measure 
of calling with it lest, had she really no 
sentiment of interest in him, it might be 
regarded as a slightly absurd errand, the 
reason guessed ; and the sense of the ludi- 
crous, which was rather keen in her, might 
do his dignity considerable injury in her 


eyes: and what she thought of him, even 
apart from the question of her loving, was 
all the world to him now. 

But the hour came when the patience 
of love at twenty -one could endure no 
longer. One Saturday he approached the 
school with a mild air of indifference, and 
had the satisfaction of seeing the object of 
his quest at the farther end of her garden, 
trying, by the aid of a spade and gloves, to 
root a bramble that had intruded itself there. 

He disguised his feelings from some sus- 
picious-looking cottage- windows opposite, by 
endeavouring to appear like a man in a 
great hurry of business, who wished to 
leave the handkerchief and have done with 
such trifling errands. 

This endeavour signally failed; for on 
approaching the gate, he found it locked to 
keep the children, who were playing pri- 
soner's base in the front, from running into 
her private grounds. 

She did not see him ; and he could only 
think of one thing to be done, which was 
to shout her name. 


* Miss Day!' 

The words were uttered with a jerk and 
a look, which were meant to imply to the 
cottages opposite that he was simply a young 
man who liked shouting, as being a plea- 
sant way of passing his time, without any 
reference at aU to persons in gardens. The 
name died away, and the unconscious Miss 
Day continued digging and pulling as 

He screwed himself up to enduring the 
cottage -windows yet more stoically, and 
shouted again. Fancy took no notice what- 

He shouted again the third time, with 
desperate vehemence ; then turned suddenly 
about and retired a little distance, as if he 
had no connection with the school, but was 
standing there by chance. 

This time she heard him, came down 
the garden, and entered the school at the 
back. Footsteps echoed across the interior, 
the door opened, and three-quarters of the 
blooming young schoolmistress's face and 
figure stood revealed before him ; a perpen- 


dicular slice on her left-hand side being cut 
off by the edge of the door she held ajar. 
Having surveyed and recognised hira, she 
came to the gate. 

At sight of him had the pink of her 
cheeks increased, lessened, or did it con- 
tinue to cover its normal area of ground ? 
It was a question meditated several hun- 
dreds of times by her visitor in after-hours 
— the meditation, after wearying involu- 
tions, always ending in one way, that it was 
impossible to say. 

' Your handkerchief: Miss Day : I called 
with.* He held it out spasmodically and 
awkwardly. 'Mother found it: under a 

' 0, thank you very much for bringing 
it, Mr. Dewy. I couldn't think where I 
had dropped it.* 

Now Dick, not being an experienced 
lover — indeed, never before having been 
engaged in the practice of love-making at 
all, except in a small schoolboy way — could 
not take advantage of the situation; and 
out came the blunder, which afterwards 


cost him SO many bitter moments and three 
sleepless nights : — 

* Good-morning, Miss Day.' 

* Good-morning, Mr. Dewy/ 

The gate was closed ; she was gone ; and 
Dick was standing outside, unchanged in 
his condition from what he had been before 
he called. Of course Angel was not to 
blame — a young woman living alone in a 
house could not ask him indoors unless she 
had known him better — he should have 
kept her outside. He wished that before 
he called he had realised more fully than 
he did the pleasure of being about to call; 
and turned away. 

PartII. ^pnnj 

Chapter I. Passing by the School 

It followed that as the spring advanced, 
Dick walked abroad much more frequently 
than had hitherto been usual mth him, and 
was continually finding that his nearest 
way to or from home lay across the field at 
the corner of the school. The first-fruits 
of his perseverance were that, on turning 
the angle on the nineteenth journey that 
way, he saw Miss Fancy's figure, clothed in 
a dark-gray dress, looking from a high open 
window upon the crown of his hat. The 
friendly greeting, which was the result of 
this rencounter, was considered so valuable 
an elixir that Dick passed still oftener ; and 
by the time he had trodden a little path in 
the grass where never a path was before, 


he was rewarded with an actual meeting 
face to face on the open ground. This 
brought another meeting, and another, 
Fancy faintly showing by her bearing that 
it was a pleasure to her of some kind to see 
him there ; but the sort of pleasure she de- 
rived, whether exultation at the hope her 
exceeding fairness inspired, or the true feel- 
ing which was alone Dick's concern, he could 
not anyhow decide, although he meditated 
on her every little movement for hours after 
it was made. 



It was the evening of a fine spring day. 
The descending sun appeared as a nebulous 
blaze of amber light, its outline being lost 
in cloudy masses hanging round it, like 
wild locks of hair. 

The chief members of Mellstock parish 
choir were standing in a group in front of 
Mr. Penny's workshop in the lower village. 


They were all brightly illuminated, and 
each was backed up by a shadow as long as 
a steeple ; the lowness of the source of light 
rendering the brims of their hats of no use 
at all as a protection to the eyes. 

Mr. Penny^s was the last house in that 
portion of the parish, and stood in a hollow 
by the road-side; so that cart-wheels and 
horses' feet were about level with the sill 
of his shop-window. This was low and 
wide, and was open from morning till even- 
ing, Mr. Penny himself being invariably 
seen working inside, like a framed portrait 
of a shoemaker by some modern Moroni. He 
sat facing the road, with a boot on his knees 
and the awl in his hand, only looking up for 
a moment as he stretched out his arms and 
bent forward at the pull, when his spectacles 
flashed in the passer's face with a shine of 
flat whiteness, and then returned again to 
the boot as usual. Rows of lasts, small and 
large, stout and slender, covered the wall 
which formed the background, in the ex- 
treme shadow of which a kind of dummy 
was seen sitting, in the shape of ap appreu- 


tice with a string tied round his hair (pro- 
bably to keep it out of his eyes). He smiled 
at remarks that floated in from the outside, 
but was never known to answer them in 
Mr. Penny's presence. Outside the window, 
the upper-leather of a Wellington-boot was 
usually hung, pegged to a board as if to 
dry. No sign was over his door ; in fact — 
as with old banks and mercantile houses — 
advertising in any shape was scorned, and 
it would have been felt as beneath his dig- 
nity to paint, for the benefit of strangers, 
the name of an establishment the trade of 
which came solely by connection based on 
personal respect. 

His visitors now stood on the outside 
of his window, sometimes leanino^ a2:ainst 
the sill, sometimes moving a pace or two 
backwards and forwards in front of it. They 
talked with deliberate gesticulations to Mr. 
Penny, enthroned in the shadow of the in- 

* I do like a man to stick to men who 
be in the same line o' life — o' Sundays, any 
way — that I do so.' 


' 'Tis like all the doings of folk who don't 
know what a day's work is, that's what 1 say.' 

' My belief is the man's not to blame ; 
'tis she — she's the bitter weed/ 

' No, not altogether. He's a poor gawk- 
hammer. Look at his sermon yesterday.' 

' His sermon was well enough, a very 
excellent sermon enough, only he couldn't 
put it into words and speak it. That's all 
was the matter wi' the sermon. He hadn't 
been able to get it past his pen.' 

' Well — ay, the sermon might be good 
enough ; for, ye see, the sermon of Old 
Ecclesiastes himself lay in Old Ecclesiastes's 
ink-bottle afore he got it out.' 

Mr. Penny, being in the act of drawing 
the last stitch tight, could aiFord time to 
look up and throw in a word at this point. 

' He's no spouter — that must be said, 
'a b'lieve.' 

' 'Tis a terrible muddle sometimes with 
the man, as far as that goes,' said Spinks. 

^ Well, we'll say nothing about that,* 
the tranter answered ; ' for I don't believe 
'twill make a penneth o' difference to we 


poor martels here or hereafter whether hia 
sermons be good or bad, my sonnies.' 

Mr. Penny made another hole with his 
awl, pushed in the thread, and looked up 
and spoke again at the extension of arms. 

' 'Tis his goings-on, souls, that's what 
it is.' He clenched his features for an Her- 
culean addition to the ordinary pull, and 
went on, *The first thing he do when he 
cam here was to be hot and strong about 
church business.' 

' Trew,' said Spinks; ' that was the very 
first thing he do.' 

Mr. Penny, having now been offered the 
ear of the assembly, accepted it, ceased 
stitching, swallowed an unimportant quan- 
tity of air as if it were a pill, and con- 
tinued : 

' The next thing he do is to think about 
altering the church, until he found 'twould 
be a matter o' cost and what not, and then 
not to think no more about it.' 

' Trew : that was the next thing he do.* 

* And the next thing was to tell the 
young chaps that they were not on no ac- 


count to put their hats in the font during 

' Trew.' 

' And then 'twas this, and then *twas 
that, and now 'tis — ' 

Words were not forcible enough to con- 
clude the sentence, and Mr. Penny gave a 
huge pull to signify the concluding word. 

' Now 'tis to turn us out of the quire 
neck and crop,' said the tranter after a 
silent interval of half a minute, not at all 
by way of explaining the pause and pull, 
which had been quite understood, but sim- 
ply as a means of keeping the subject well 
before the meeting. 

Mrs. Penny came to the door at this 
point in the discussion. Like all good 
wives, however much she was incHned to 
play the Tory to her husband's Whiggism, 
and vice versd^ in times of peace, she coa- 
lesced with him heartily enough in time of 

* It must be owned he's not all there,* 
she replied, in a general way, to the frag- 
ments of talk she had heard from indoors. 


'Far below poor Mr. Grinham' (the late 

* Ay, there was this to be said for him, 
that you were quite sure he'd never come 
mumbudgeting to see ye, just as you were 
in the middle of your work, and put you 
out with his anxious trouble about you — 
so say L' 

' Never. But as for this new Mr. May- 
bold, he's a very singular, well-intentioned 
party in that respect, but unbearable; for 
as to sifting your cinders, scrubbing your 
floors, or emptying your soap-suds, why you 
can't do it. I assure you I've not been 
able to empt them for several days, unless 
I throw 'em up the chimley or out of win- 
der; for as sure as the sun you meet him 
at the door, coming to ask how you be, 
and 'tis such a confusing thing to meet a 
gentleman at the door when ye are in the 
mess o' washing.' 

* 'Tis only for want of knowing better, 
poor gentleman,' said the tranter. ' His 
maning's good enough. Ay, your parson 
comes by fate : 'tis heads or tails, like pitch- 


halfpenny, and no choosing ; so we must take 
en as he is, my sonnies, and thank God he's 
no worse, I suppose.' 

' I fancy I've seen him look across at 
Miss Day in a warmer way than Chris- 
tianity required,' said Mrs. Penny mus- 
ingly; ' but I don't quite like to say W 

*0, no; there's nothing in that,' said 
grandfather William. 

4f there's nothing, we shall see nothing,' 
Mrs. Penny replied, in the tone of a woman 
who might possibly have private opinions still. 

* Ah, Mr. Grinham was the man !' said 
Bowman. ' Why, he never troubled us wi' 
a visit from year's end to year's end. You 
might go anywhere, do anything : you'd be 
sure never to see him.' 

' 'A was a right sensible parson,' said 
Michael. ' He never entered our door but 
once in his life, and that was to tell my 
poor wife — ay, poor soul, dead and gone 
now, as we all shall ! — that as she was such 
a old aged person, and lived so far from 
the church, he didn't at all expect her to 
come any more to the service.' 


' And 'a was a very jinerous gentleman 
about choosing the psalms and hymns o' Sun- 
days. " Confound ye," says he, '' blare and 
scrape what ye like, but don't bother me !" ' 

' And he was a very honourable good 
man in not wanting any of us to come and 
hear him if we were all on-end for a jaunt 
or spree, or to bring the babies to be chris- 
tened if they were inclined to squalling. 
There's virtue in a man's not putting a 
parish to spiritual trouble.' 

' And there's this man never letting us 
have a bit of peace ; but wanting us to be 
good and upright till 'tis carried to such a 
shameful pitch as I never see the like afore 
nor since!' 

' Still, for my part,' said old William, 
' though he's arrayed against us, I like the 
hearty borus-snorus ways of the new pa'son.' 

' You, ready to die for the quire,' said 
Bowman reproachfully, ^ to stick up for the 
quire's enemy, William !' 

' Nobody will feel the loss of our occu- 
pation so much as I,' said the old man 
firmly; ^ that you d'all know. I've been 


in the quire man and boy ever since I was 
a chiel of eleven. But for all that 'tisn't in 
me to call the man a bad man, because I 
truly and sincerely believe en to be a good 
young feller.' 

Some of the youthful sparkle that used 
to reside there animated William's eye as 
he uttered the words, and a certain nobility 
of aspect was also imparted to him by the 
setting sun, which gave him a Titanic sha- 
dow at least thirty feet in length, stretching 
away to the east in outlines of imposing 
magnitude, his head finally terminating 
upon the trunk of a grand old oak-tree. 

' Mayble's a hearty feller,' the tranter 
rephed, * and will spak to you be you dirty 
or be you clane. The first time I met en 
was in a drong, and though 'a didn't know 
me no more than the dead, 'a passed the 
time of day. " D'ye do?" he said, says he, 
nodding his head, '' A fine day." Then the 
second time I met en was full-bufi" in town 
street, when my breeches were tore all to 
strents and lippets by getting through a 
copse of thorns and brimbles for a short 


cut home - alono: ; and not wantino^ to dis- 
grace the man by spaking in that state, I 
fixed my eye on the Aveathercock to let en 
pass me as a stranger. But no : " How 
d'ye do, Keuben ?" says he, right hearty. If 
I'd been dressed in silver spangles from top 
to toe, the man couldn't have been civiller.' 
At this moment Dick was seen coming 
up the village- street, and they turned and 
watched him. 



'I'm afraid Dick's a lost man,' said the 

' What ? — no !' said Mail, implying by 
his manner that it was a far commoner 
thing for his ears to report what was not 
said than that his judgment should be at 

' Ay,' said the tranter, still looking at 
Dick's unconscious advance. ' I don't at 
all like what I see! There's too many 


o' them looks out of the winder without 
noticing anything ; too much shining of 
boots ; too much peeping round corners ; 
too much looking at the clock ; telling 
about clever things She did till you be sick 
of it, and then upon a hint to that effect a 
horrible silence about her. I've walked the 
path once in my life and know the country, 
naibours; and Dick's a lost man!' The 
tranter turned a quarter round and smiled 
a smile of miserable satire at the rising new 
moon, which happened to catch his eye. 

The others' looks became far too serious 
at this announcement to allow them to speak ; 
and they still regarded Dick in the dis- 

' 'Twas his mother's fault,' the tranter 
continued, shaking his head two-and-half 
times, ' in asking the young woman to our 
party last Christmas. When I eyed the 
blue frock and light heels o' the maid, I 
had my thoughts directly. ^' God bless 
thee, Dicky my sonny," I said to myself 
" there's a delusion for thee !" ' 

*They seemed to be rather distant in 


manner last Sunday, I thought,' said Mail 
tentatively, as became one who was not a 
member of the family. 

'Ay, that's a part of the illness. Dis- 
tance belongs to it, slyness belongs to it, 
quarest things on earth belongs to it. 
There, 'tmay as well come early as late s'far 
as I know. The sooner begun, the sooner 
over; for come it will.' 

* The question I ask is,' said Mr. Spinks, 
connecting into one thread the two subjects 
of discourse, as became a man learned in 
rhetoric, and beating with his hand in a 
way which signified that the manner rather 
than the matter of his speech was to be 
observed, ' how did Mr. Maybold know 
she could play the organ ? You know we 
had it from her own lips, as far as that 
goes, that she has never, first or last, 
breathed such a thing to him ; much less 
that she ever would play.' 

In the midst of this puzzle Dick 
joined the party, and the news which had 
caused such a convulsion among the ancient 
musicians was unfolded to him. ' Well,' he 


ing his measure from top to bottom by the 
eye. ' He's so terrible silly that he might 
ruin the concern.' 

' He don't want to go much ; do ye, 
Thomas Leaf?' said William. 

' Hee-hee! no; I don't want to.* 

'I be martal afeard, Leaf, that you'll 
never be able to tell how many cuts d'take 
to sharpen a spar/ said Mail. 

' I never had no head, never! that's how 
it happened to happen, hee-hee !' 

They all assented to this, not with any 
sense of humiliating Leaf by disparaging 
him after an open confession, but because it 
was an accepted thing that Leaf didn't in the 
least mind having no head, that he habitu- 
ally walked about without one being an 
unimpassioned matter of parish history. 

* But I can sing my treble !' continued 
Thomas Leaf, quite delighted at being called 
a fool in such a friendly way; 'I can sing 
my treble as well as any maid, or married 
woman either, and better ! And if Jim had 
lived, I should have had a clever brother! 
To-morrow is poor Jim's birthday. He'd 


ha' been twenty-six if he'd lived till to- 

' You always seem very sorry for Jim/ 
said old William musingly. 

' Ah ! I do. Such a stay to mother as 
he'd always ha' been! She'd never have 
had to work in her old age if he had con- 
tinued strong, poor Jim !' 

* What was his age when 'a died ?' 

' Four hours and twenty minutes, poor 
Jim. 'A was born as might be at night; 
and 'a didn't last as might be till the morn- 
ing. No, 'a didn't last. Mother called en 
Jim on the day that would ha' been his 
christening day if he had lived; and she's 
always thinking about en. You see he 
died so very young.' 

'Well, 'twas rather youthful,' said Mi- 

^ Now to my mind that woman is very 
imaginative on the subject of children?' said 
the tranter, his eye precisely sweeping hia 
audience as he spoke. 

* Ah, well she maybe,' said Leaf. ' She 
had twelve regularly one after another, and 


they all, except myself, died very young; 
either before they was born or just after- 

' Pore feller too. I suppose th'st want 
to come wi' us ?' the tranter murmured. 

*Well, Leaf, you shall come wi' us as 
yours is such a melancholy family,' said old 
William rather sadly. 

* I never see such a melancholy family 
as that afore in my life,' said Reuben. 
* There's Leafs mother, pore woman I Every 
morning I see her eyes mooning out through 
the panes of glass like a pot-sick winder- 
flower; and as Leaf sings a very high 
treble, and we don't know what we should 
do without en for upper G, we'll let en 
come as a trate, pore feller.* 

^ Ay, we'll let en come 'a b'lieve,' said 
Mr. Penny, looking up, as the pull happened 
to be at that moment. 

' Now,' continued the tranter, dispersing 
by a new tone of voice this digression about 
Leaf; ' as to going to see the pa'son, one of 
us might just call and ask en his maning, 
and 'twould be just as well done; but it 


will add a bit of a flourish to the cause if the 
quire waits on him as a body. Then the 
great thing to mind is, not for any of our 
fellers to be nervous ; so before starting 
we'll one and all come to my house and 
have a rasher of bacon; then every man- 
jack het a pint of cider into his inside ; then 
we'll warm up an extra drop wi' some mead 
and a bit of ginger ; every man take a 
thimbleful — just a glimmer of a drop, mind 
ye, no more, to finish off his inner man — 
and march off to Pa'son Mayble. Why, 
sonnies, a man's not himself till he is forti- 
fied wi' a bit and a drop ? We shall be able 
to look any gentleman in the face then with- 
out sin or shame.' 

Mail just recovered from a deep medita- 
tion and downward glance into the earth in 
time to give a cordial approval to this line 
of action, and the meeting adjourned. 




At six o'clock the next day, the whole 
body of men in the choir emerged from the 
tranter's door, and advanced with a firm step 
down the lane. This dignity of march gra- 
dually became obliterated as they went on, 
and by the time they reached the hill be- 
hind the vicarage, a faint resemblance to a 
flock of sheep might have been discerned in 
the venerable party. A word from the 
tranter, however, set them right again ; 
and as they descended the hill, the regular 
tramp, tramp, tramp of the united feet was 
clearly audible from the vicarage garden. 
At the opening of the gate there was ano- 
ther short interval of irregular shuffling, 
caused by a rather peculiar habit the gate 
had, when swung open quickly, of striking 
ao^ainst the bank and slammino^ back into 
the opener's face. 

' Now keep step again, will ye?' said 
the tranter solemnly. ^ It looks better, and 


more becomes the high class of errand 
which has brou^^ht us here.' Thus they 
advanced to the door. 

At Reuben's ring the more modest of 
the group turned aside, adjusted their hats, 
and looked critically at any shrub that hap- 
pened to lie in the line of vision; endea- 
vouring thus to give any one who chanced 
to look out of the windows the impression 
that their request, whatever it was going to 
be, was rather a casual thought occurring 
whilst they were inspecting the vicar's 
shrubbery and grass-plot than a predeter- 
mined thing. The tranter, who, coming 
frequently to the vicarage with luggage, 
coals, firewood, &c., had none of the awe 
for its precincts that filled the breasts of 
most of the others, fixed his eyes with 
much strong feeling on the knocker during 
this interval of w^aiting. The knocker hav- 
ing no characteristic worthy of notice, he 
relinquished it for a knot in one of the 
door-panels, and studied the winding lines 
of the grain. 


^ 0, sir, please, here's tranter Dewy, and 
old William Dewy, and young Richard 
Dewy, 0, and all the quire too, sir, except 
the boys, a-come to see you !* said Mr. May- 
bold's maid-servant to Mr. Maybold, the 
pupils of her eyes dilating like circles in a 

' All the choir?* said the astonished vicar 
(who may be shortly described as a good- 
looking young man with courageous eyes, 
timid mouth, and neutral nose), looking 
fixedly at his parlour-maid after speaking, 
hke a man who fancied he had seen her 
face before but couldn't recollect where. 

' And they looks very firm, and tranter 
Dewy do turn neither to the right hand nor 
to the left, but looked quite straight and 
solemn with his mind made up !' 

' 0, all the choir,' repeated the vicar to 
himself, trying by that simple device to trot 
out his thoughts on what the choir could 
come for. 

'Yes ; every man -jack of 'em, as I be 
alive !' (The parlour-maid was rather local 
in manner, having in fact been raised in the 


Bame village.) * Really, sir, 'tis thoughted 
by many in town and country that — ' 

' Town and country ! — Heavens, I had 
no idea that I was public property in this 
way!' said the vicar, his face acquiring a 
hue somewhere between that of the rose 
and the peony. * Well, "It is thought in 
town and country that — " ' 

* It is thought that you are going to get it 
hot and strong ! — excusen my incivility, sir.' 

The vicar suddenly recalled to his recol- 
lection that he had long ago settled it to be 
decidedly a mistake to encourage his ser- 
vant Jane in giving personal opinions. The 
servant Jane saw by the vicar's face that 
he suddenly recalled this fact to his mind ; 
and removing her forehead from the edge 
of the door, and rubbing away the indent 
that edge had made, vanished into the 
passage as Mr. Maybold remarked, ' Show 
them in, Jane.' 

A few minutes later a shuffling and 
jostling (reduced to as refined a form as 
was compatible with the nature of shuffles 
and jostles) was heard in the passage; then 


an earnest and prolonged wiping of shoes, 
conveying the notion that volumes of mud 
had to be removed ; but the roads being so 
clean that not a particle of dirt appeared 
on the choir's boots (those of all the elder 
members being newly oiled, and Dick's 
brightly polished), this wiping must be set 
down simply as a desire to show that these 
respectable men had no intention or wish 
to take a mean advantage of clean roads for 
curtailing proper ceremonies. Next there 
came a powerful whisper from the same 
quarter : — 

* Now stand stock-still there, my sonnies, 
one and all ! and don't make no noise ; and 
keep your backs close to the wall, that com 
pany may pass in and out easy if they want 
to without squeezing through ye : and we 

two be enough to go in.' The voice 

was the tranter's. 

' I wish I could go in, too, and see the 
sight !' said a reedy voice — that of Leaf. 

' 'Tis a pity Leaf is so terrible silly, or 
else he might,' another said. 

' I never in my life seed a quire go into 


a study to have it out about the playing 
and singing,' pleaded Leaf; 'and I should 
like, too, to see it just once !' 

' Very well; we'll let en come in,' said 
the tranter feelingly. * You'll be like chips 
in porridge, Leaf — neither good nor hurt. 
All right, my sonny, come along ;' and im- 
mediately himself, old William, and Leaf 
appeared in the room. 

' We've took the liberty to come and see 
ye, sir,' said Reuben, letting his hat hang 
in his left hand, and touching with his right 
the brim of an imaginary one on his head. 
* We've come to see ye, sir, man and man, 
and no offence, I hope?' 

' None at all,' said Mr. Maybold. 

' This old aged man standing by my side 
is father ; William Dewy by name, sir.' 

' Yes ; I see it is,' said the vicar, nod - 
ding aside to old William, who smiled. 

' I thought ye mightn't know en with- 
out his bass-viol,' said the tranter apologeti- 
cally. ' You see, he always wears his best 
clothes and his bass-viol a- Sundays, and it do 
make such a difference in a old man's look.' 


' And who's that young man?' the vicar 

' Tell the pa'son yer name,' said the 
tranter, turning to Leaf, who stood with his 
elbows nailed back to a bookcase. 

'Please, Thomas Leaf, your holiness!' 
said Leaf, trembling. 

' I hope you'll excuse his looks being so 
very thin,' continued the tranter deprecat- 
ingly, turning to the vicar again. ' But 'tisn't 
his fault, pore feller. He's rather silly by 
nater, and could never get fat ; though he's 
a excellent tribble, and so we keep him on.' 

' I never had no head, sir,' said Leaf, 
eagerly grasping at this opportunity for 
being forgiven his existence. 

* Ah, poor young man!' said Mr. May- 

'Bless you, he don't mind it a bit, if 
you don't, sir,' said the tranter assuringly. 
' Do ye, Leaf?' 

' Not I — not a morsel — hee, hee ! I was 
afeard it mightn't please your holiness, sir, 
that's all.' 

The tranter, finding Leaf get on so very 


well through his negative qualities, was 
tempted in a fit of generosity to advance 
him still higher, by giving him credit for 
positive ones. * He's very clever for a silly 
chap, good-now, sir. You never knowed a 
young feller keep his smock-frocks so clane ; 
very honest too. His ghastly looks is all 
there is against en, pore feller ; but we can't 
help our looks, you know, sir.' 

' True : we cannot. You live with your 
mother, I think. Leaf?' 

The tranter looked at Leaf to express 
that the most friendly assistant to his 
tongue could do no more for him now, and 
that he must be left to his own resources. 

' Yes, sir : a widder, sir. Ah, if bro- 
ther Jim had lived she'd have had a clever 
son to keep her without work !^ 

'Indeed! poor woman. Give her this 
half-crown. I'll call and see your mother.' 

' Say, " Thank you, sir," ' the tranter 
whispered imperatively towards Leaf. 

' Thank you, sir !' said Leaf. 

* That's it, then; sit down, Leaf,' said 
Mr. Maybold. 


* Y-yes, sir I' 

The tranter cleared his throat after this 
accidental parenthesis about Leaf, rectified 
his bodily position, and began his speech. 

^Mr. Mayble,' he said, 'I hope you'll 
excuse my common way, but I always like 
to look things in the face.' 

Eeuben made a point of fixing this sen- 
tence in the vicar's mind by giving a smart 
nod at the conclusion of it, and then gazing 
hard out of the window. 

Mr. Maybold and old William looked in 
the same direction, apparently under the 
impression that the things' faces alluded to 
were there visible. 

' What I have been thinking' — the tran- 
ter Implied by this use of the past tense 
that he was hardly so discourteous as to be 
positively thinking it then — 'is that the 
quire ought to be gie'd a little time, and 
not done away wi' till Christmas, as a fair 
thing between man and man. And, Mr. 
Mayble, I hope you'll excuse my common 

'I wHl, I will. Till Christmas,^ the 


vicar murmured, stretching the two words 
to a great length, as if the distance to 
Christmas might be measured in that way. 
* "Well, I want you all to understand that I 
have no personal fault to find, and that I 
don't wish to change the church music in 
a forcible way, or in a way which should 
hurt the feelings of any parishioners. Why 
I have at last spoken definitely on the sub- 
ject is that a player has been brought un- 
der — I may say pressed upon — my notice 
several times by one of the churchwardens. 
And as the organ I brought with me is here 
waiting' (pointing to a cabinet- organ stand- 
ing in the study), 'there is no reason for 
longer delay. ^ 

' "We made a mistake I suppose then, sir ? 
But we understood the young lady didn't 
w^ant to play particularly?' The tranter 
arranged his countenance to signify that he 
did not want to be inquisitive in the least. 

' No, nor did she. Nor did I definitely 
wish her to just yet; for your playing is 
very good. But as I said, one of the church- 
wardens has been so anxious for a change, 


that as matters stand, I couldn't consistently 
refuse my consent.' 

Now for some reason or other, the vicar 
at this point seemed to have an idea that 
he had prevaricated ; and as an honest vicar, 
it was a thing he determined not to do. 
He corrected himself, blushing as he did 
so, though why he should blush was not 
known to Reuben. 

' Understand me rightly,' he said : ' the 
churchwarden proposed it to me, but I had 
thought myself of getting — Miss Day to 

* Which churchwarden might that be 
who proposed her, sir ? — excusing m.^ com- 
mon way.' The tranter intimated by his 
tone, that so far from being inquisitive he 
did not even wish to ask a single question. 

' Mr. Shinar, I believe.' 

* Clk, my sonny ! — beg your pardon, sir, 
that's only a form of words of mine, sir, 
and slipped out accidental — sir, he nourishes 
enmity against us for some reason or ano- 
ther ; perhaps because we played rather hard 
upon en Christmas night. I don't know, 


but 'tis certain-sure that Viv. Shinar's rale 
love for music of a particular kind isn't his 
reason. He've no more ear than that chair. 
But let that pass.* 

' I don't think you should conclude that, 
because Mr. Shinar wants a different music, 
he has any ill-feeling for you. I myself, I 
must own, prefer organ-music to any other 
I consider it most proper, and feel justified 
in endeavouring to introduce it ; but then, 
although other music is better, I don't say 
yours is not good.' 

^ Well then, Mr. Mayble, since death's 
to be, we'll die like men any day you names, 
(excusing my common way).' 

Mr. Maybold bowed his head. 

*A11 we thought was, that for us old 
ancient singers to be finished off quietly at 
no time in particular, as now, in the Sun- 
days after Easter, would seem rather mean 
in the eyes of other parishes, sir. But if we 
fell glorious with a bit of a flourish at Christ- 
mas, we should have a respectable end, and 
not dwindle away at some nameless paltry 
second -Sunday -after or Sunday -next -be- 


fore something, that's got no name of his 

* Yes, yes, that's reasonable ; I own it's 

' You see, Mr. Mayble, we've got — do I 
keep you inconveniently long, sir ?' 
' No, no.' 

* We've got our feelings — father there 
especially, Mr. Mayble.' 

The tranter, in his eagerness to explain, 
had advanced his person to within six inches 
of the vicar's. 

' Certainly, certainly !' said Mr. May bold, 
retreating a little for convenience of seeing. 
' You are all enthusiastic on the subject, and 
I am all the more gratified to find you so. 
A Laodicean lukewarmness is worse than 
wrongheadedness itself* 

' Exactly, sir. In fact now, Mr. Mayble,* 
Keuben continued, more impressively, and 
advancing a little closer still to the vicar, 
' father there is a perfect figure of wonder, 
in the way of being fond of music !' 

The vicar drew back a little farther, the 
tranter suddenly also standing back a foot 


or two, to throw open the view of his father, 
and pointing to him at the same time. 

Old William moved uneasily in the large 
chair, and constructing a minute smile on the 
mere edge of his lips, for good-manners, said 
he was indeed very fond of tunes. 

' Now, sir, you see exactly how it is,' 
Reuben continued, appealing to Mr. May- 
bold' s sense of justice by looking sideways 
into his eyes. The vicar seemed to see how it 
was so well, that the gratified tranter walked 
up to him again with even vehement eager- 
ness, so that his waistcoat-buttons almost 
rubbed against the vicar's as he continued : 
'As to father, if you or I, or any man or 
woman of the present generation, at the time 
music is playing, was to shake your fist in 
fathei's face, as might be this way, and 
say, " Don't you be delighted with that 
music !" ' — the tranter went back to where 
Leaf was sitting, and held his fist so close 
to Leaf's face, that the latter pressed his 
head back against the wall ; ' All right. Leaf, 
my sonny, I won't hurt you; 'tis just to 
show my maning to Mr. Mayble. — As I 


was saying, if you or I, or any man, was to 
shake your fist in father's face this way, 
and say, "William, your life or your music !" 
he'd say, " My life !" Now that's father's 
nater all over; and you see, sir, it must 
hurt the feelings of a man of that kind, for 
him and his bass-viol to be done away wi' 
neck and crop.' 

The tranter went back to the vicar'8 
front, and looked earnestly at a very minute 
point in his face. 

* True, true, Dewy,' Mr. Maybold ans- 
wered, trying to withdraw his head and 
shoulders without moving his feet; but 
finding this impracticable, edging back ano- 
ther inch. These frequent retreats had at 
last jammed Mr. Maybold between his easy- 
chair and the edge of the table. 

And at the moment of the announce- 
ment of the choir, Mr. Maybold had just 
re-dipped the pen he was using; at their 
entry, instead of wiping it, he had laid it 
on the table with the nib overhanging. At 
the last retreat his coat-tails came in con- 
tact with the pen, and down it rolled, first 


against the back of the chair ; thence turn- 
ing a summersault into the seat; thence 
rolling to the floor with a rattle. 

The vicar stooped for his pen, and the 
tranter, wishing to show that, however great 
their ecclesiastical differences, his mind was 
not so small as to let this affect his social 
feelings, stooped also. 

* And have you anything else you want 
to explain to me, Dewy?' said Mr. Maybold 
from under the table. 

* Nothing, sir. And, Mr. Mayble, you be 
not offended? I hope you see our desire is 
reason ?' said the tranter from under the chair. 

* Quite, quite ; and I shouldn't think of 
refusing to listen to such a reasonable re- 
quest,* the vicar replied. Seeing that Reu- 
ben had secured the pen, he resumed his 
vertical position, and added, 'You know, 
Dewy, it is often said how difficult a matter 
it is to act up to our convictions and please 
all parties. It may be said with equal 
truth, that it is difficult for a man of any 
appreciativeness to have convictions at all. 
Now in my case, I see right in you, and 


rigHt in Shinar. I see that violins are good, 
and that an organ is good ; and when we 
introduce the organ, it will not be that 
fiddles were bad, but that an organ was 
better. That you'll clearly understand, 
Dewy ? 

* I will ; and thank you very much for 
such feelings, sir. Piph-h-h-h! How the 
blood do get into my head to be sure, when- 
ever I quat down like that!* said Reuben, 
having also risen to his feet, sticking the pen 
vertically in the inkstand and almost through 
the bottom, that it might not roll down 
again under any circumstances whatever. 

Now the ancient body of minstrels in 
the passage felt their curiosity surging 
higher and higher as the minutes passed. 
Dick, not having much affection for this 
errand, soon grew tired, and went away in 
the direction of the school. Yet their sense 
of propriety would probably have restrained 
them from any attempt to discover what 
was going on in the study, had not the 
vicar's pen fallen to the floor. The convic- 
tion that the movement of chairs, &c. neces- 


sitated by the search, could only have been 
caused by the catastrophe of a bloody 
fight, overpowered all other considerations ; 
and they advanced to the door, which had 
only just fallen to. Thus, when Mr. May- 
bold raised his eyes after the stooping, he 
beheld glaring through the door Mr. Penny 
in full-length portraiture. Mail's face and 
shoulders above Mr. Penny's head, Spinks's 
forehead and eyes over Mail's crown, and a 
fractional part of Bowman's countenance 
under Spinks's arm — crescent-shaped por- 
tions of other heads and faces being visible 
behind these — the whole dozen and odd 
eyes bristling with eager inquiry. 

Mr. Penny, as is the case with excitable 
bootmakers and men, on seeing the vicar 
look at him, and hearing no word spoken, 
thought it incumbent upon himself to say 
something of any kind. Nothing suggested 
itself till he had looked for about half a 
minute at the vicar. 

' You'll excuse my naming it, sir,' he 
said, regarding with much commiseration 
the mere surface of the vicar's fia-ce; 'but 


perhaps you don't know, sir, that your chin 
have bust out a-bleeding where you cut 
yourself a-shaving this morning, sir/ 

' Now, that was the stooping, depend 
upon't, Mr. Mayble,' the tranter suggested, 
also looking with much interest at the 
vicar's chin. ' Blood always will bust out 
again if you hang down the member that 
ha' been bleeding.' 

Old William raised his eyes and watched 
the vicar's bleeding chin likewise ; and Leaf 
advanced two or three paces from the book- 
case, absorbed in the contemplation of the 
same phenomenon, with parted lips and de- 
lighted eyes. 

' Dear me, dear me !' said Mr. Maybold 
hastily, looking very red, and brushing hib 
chin with his hand, then taking out his 
handkerchief and wiping the place. 

' That's it, sir ; all right again now, 'a 
b'lieve — a mere nothing,' said Mr. Penny. 
* A little bit of fur off your hat will stop 
it in a minute if it should bust out 

* ril let ye have a bit of fur off mine/ 


said Reuben, to show his good feeling; 'my 
hat isn't so new as yours, sir, and 'twon't 
hurt mine a bit.' 

* No, no ; thank you, thank you,' Mr. 
Maybold again nervously replied. 

' 'Twas rather a deep cut seemingly, 
sir?' said Reuben, thinking these the kind- 
est and best remarks he could make. 

* 0, no; not particularly.' 

'Well, sir, your hand will shake some- 
times a-shaving, and just when it comes 
into your head that you may cut yourself, 
there's the blood.' 

' I have been revolving in my mind that 
question of the time at which we make the 
change,' said Mr. Maybold, ' and I know 
you'll meet me half-way. I think Christ- 
mas-day as much too late for me as the 
present time is too early for you. I sug- 
gest Michaelmas or thereabout as a con- 
venient time for both parties; for I think 
your objection to a Sunday which has no 
name is not one of any real weight.' 

' Very good, sir. I suppose martel men 
mustn't expect their own way entirely; and 


I express in all our names that we'll make 
shift and be satisfied with what you say.' 
The tranter touched the brim of his ima- 
ginary hat again, and all the choir did the 
same. ^ About Michaelmas, then, as far as 
you be concerned, sir, and then we make 
room for the next generation.' 

^ About Michaelmas/ said the vicar 



* *A TOOK it very well, then ?' said Mail, 
as they all walked up the hill. 

^ He behaved like a man, 'a did so,' said 
the tranter. ^ Supposing this tree here was 
Pa'son Mayble as might be, and here be I 
standing, and that large stone is father sit- 
ting in the easy-chair. " Dewy," says he, 
" I don't wish to change the church music 
in a forcible way." ' 

* Now, that was very nice o' the man.' 

* Proper nice — out and out nice. The 
fact is,' said Reuben confidentially, ' 'tis 


how you take a man. Everybody must be 
managed. Queens must be managed : kings 
must be managed ; for men want managing 
almost as much as women, and that's saying 
a good deal.' 

"Tis truly !' murmured the husbands. 

' Pa'son Mayble and I were as good 
friends all through it as if we'd been sworn 
brothers. Ay, the man's well enough; 'tis 
what's in his head that spoils him.' 

* There's really no believing half you 
hear about people nowadays.' 

' Bless ye, my sonnies ! 'tisn't the pa'son's 
move at all. That gentleman over there' (the 
tranter nodded in the direction of Shinar's 
farm) * is at the root of the mischief.' 

'What I Shinar?' 

' Ay ; and I see what the pa'son don't 
see. Why, Shinar is for putting forward 
that young woman that only last night I 
was saying was our Dick's sweetheart, but 
I suppose can't be, and making much of her 
in the sight of the congregation, and think- 
ing he'll win her by showing her off: well, 
perhaps 'a will.' 


* Then the music is second to the wo- 
man, the other churchwarden is second to 
Shinar, the pa'son is second to the church- 
wardens, and God A'mighty is nowhere at 

* That's true; and you see,' continued 
Reuben, 'at the very beginning it put me in a 
stud as to how to quarrel wi' en. In short, 
to save my soul, I couldn't quarrel wi' such 
a civil man without belying my conscience. 
Says he to father there, in a voice as quiet as 
a lamb's, " William, you are a old aged man, 
WiUiam, as all shall be," says he, *' and sit 
down in my easy-chair, and rest yourself." 
And down father set. I could fain ha' 
laughed at thee, father ; for thou'st take it 
so unconcerned at first, and then looked so 
frioi;htened when the chair-bottom sunk in.' 

'Ye see,' said old William, hastening 
to explain, ' I was alarmed to find the bot- 
tom gie way — what should I know o' spring 
bottoms? — and thought I had broke it down : 
and of course as to breaking do^Mi a man's 
chair, I didn't wish any such thing.' 

' And, naibours, when a feller, ever so 


mucn up for a miff, d'see his own father 
sitting in his enemy's easy-chair, and a pore 
chap like Leaf made the best of, as if he 
almost had brains — why, it knocks all the 
wind out of his sail at once : it did out of 

'If that young figure of fun — Fance 
Day, I mean,' said Bowman, ' hadn't been 
so mighty forward wi' showing herself off 
to Shinar and Dick and the rest, 'tis my 
belief we should never ha' left the gal- 

' 'Tis my belief that though Shinar fired 
the bullets, the parson made 'em,' said Mr. 
Penny. ' My wife sticks to it that he's in 
love wi' her.' 

* That's a thing we shall never know. I 
can't translate her, nohow.' 

* Thou'st ought to be able to translate 
such a little chiel as she,' the tranter ob- 

' The littler the maid, the bigger the 
riddle, to my mind. And coming of such a 
stock, too, she may well be a twister.' 

'Yes; Geoffrey Day is a clever man if 


ever there was one. Never says anything 
not he.' 
^ JS ever.' 

* You might live wi' that roan, my son- 
nies, a hundred years, and never know there 
was anything in him.' 

'Ay ; one o' these up-country London 
ink-bottle fellers would call Geoffrey a fool.' 

* Ye never find out what's in that 
man: never. Silent? ah, he is silent ! He 
can keep silence well. That man's silence 
is wonderful to listen to.' 

' There's so much sense in it. Every 
moment of it is brimming over with sound 

' 'A can keep a very clever silence — very 
clever truly,' echoed Leaf. ' 'A looks at me 
as if 'a could see my thoughts running 
round like the works of a clock.' 

' Well, all will agree that the man can 
pause well in conversation, be it a long time 
or be it a short time. And though we can't 
expect his daughter to inherit his silence, 
she may have a few dribblets from his 


' And his pocket, perhaps/ 
Yes; the nine hundred pound that 
everybody says he's worth; but 1 call it 
four hundred and fifty ; for I never beUeve 
more than half I hear/ 

* Well, 'tis to be believed he've made a 
pound or two, and I suppose the maid will 
have it, since there's nobody else. But 'tis 
rather sharp upon her, if she's born to for- 
tune, to make her become as if not born for 
it, by using her to work so hard/ 

' 'Tis all upon his principle. A long- 
headed feller I' 

' Ah,' murmured Spinks, ' 'twould be 
sharper upon her if she were born for for- 
tune, and not to it I I suffer from that 



A MOOD of blitheness rarely experienced 
even by young men was Dick's on the fol- 
lowing Monday morning. It was the week 
after the Easter holidays, and he was jour- 


neying along with Smart the mare and the 
light spring-cart, watching the damp slopes 
of the hill- sides as they streamed in the 
warmth of the sun, which at this unsettled 
season shone on the grass with the fresh- 
ness of an occasional inspector rather than 
as an accustomed proprietor. His errand 
was to fetch Fancy, and some additional 
household goods, to her dwelling at Mell- 
stock. The distant view was darkly shaded 
with clouds ; but the nearer parts of the 
landscape were whitely illumined by the 
visible rays of the sun streaming down 
across the heavy gray shade behind. 

The tranter had not yet told his son of 
the state of Shinar's heart, that had been 
suggested to him by Shinar's movements. 
He preferred to let such delicate affairs 
right themselves ; experience having taught 
him that the uncertain phenomenon of love, 
as it existed in other people, was not a 
groundwork upon which a single action of 
his own life could be founded. 

The game-keeper, Geoffrey Day, lived in 
the depths of Yalbury Wood ; but the wood 


was intersected by a lane at a place not far 
from the house, and some trees had of late 
years been felled, vo give the solitary cot- 
tager a glimpse of the occasional passers-by. 

It was a satisfaction to walk into the 
keeper^s house, even as a stranger, on a fine 
spring morning like the present. A curl 
of wood- smoke came from the chimney, and 
drooped over the roof like a blue feather in 
a lady's hat; and the sun shone obliquely 
upon the patch of grass in front, which 
reflected its brightness through the open 
doorway and up the staircase opposite, 
lighting up each riser with a shiny green 
radiance, and leaving the top of each step 
in shade. 

The window-sill of the front room was 
between four and ^\^ feet from the floor, 
dropping inwardly to a broad low bench, 
over which, as well as over the whole sur- 
face of the wall beneath, there always hung 
a deep shade, which was considered objec- 
tionable on every ground save one, namely, 
that the perpetual sprinkling of seeds and 
water by the caged canary abovs was not 


noticed as an eyesore by visitors. The 
window was set with thickly -leaded dia- 
mond glazing, formed, especially in the 
lower panes, of knotty glass of various 
shades of green. Nothing was better known 
to Fancy than the extravagant manner in 
which these circular knots or eyes distorted 
everything seen through them from the 
outside — lifting hats from heads, shoulders 
from bodies ; scattering the spokes of cart- 
wheels, and bending the straight fir-trunks 
into semicircles. The ceiling was carried 
by a huge beam traversing its midst, from 
the side of which projected a large nail, 
used solely and constantly as a peg for 
Geoffrey's hat; the nail was arched by a 
rainbow - shaped stain, imprinted by the 
brim of the said hat when it was hung 
there dripping wet. 

The most striking point about the room 
was the furniture. This was a repetition 
upon inanimate objects of the old principle 
introduced by Noah, consisting for the most 
part of two articles of every sort. The 
duplicate system of furnishing owed its 


existence to the forethought of Fancy's mo- 
ther, exercised from the date of Fancy's 
birthday onwards. The arrangement spoke 
for itself; nobody who knew the tone of the 
household could look at the goods without 
being aware that the second set was a pro- 
vision for Fancy, when she should marry 
and have a house of her own. The most 
noticeable instance was a pair of green- 
faced eight-day clocks, ticking alternately, 
which were severally two and half minutes 
and three minutes striking the hour of 
twelve, one proclaiming, in Italian flour- 
ishes, Thomas Wood as the name of its 
maker, and the other — arched at the top 
and altogether of more cynical appearance 
— that of Ezekiel Sparrowgrass. These were 
two departed clockmakers of Casterbridge, 
whose desperate rivalry throughout their 
lives was nowhere more emphatically per- 
petuated than here at Geoffrey's. These 
chief specimens of the marriage provision 
were supported on the right by a couple of 
kitchen dressers, each fitted complete with 
their cups, dishes, and plates, in their turn 


followed by two dumb-waiters, two family 
Bibles, two warming-pans, and two inter- 
mixed sets of chairs. 

But tbe position last reacted — the 
chimney-corner — was, after all, the most 
attractive side of the parallelogram. It 
was large enough to admit, in addition to 
Geoffrey himself, Geoffrey's wife, her chair, 
and her work-table, entirely within the line 
of the mantel, without danger or even in- 
convenience from the heat of the fire; and 
was spacious enough overhead to allow of 
the insertion of wood poles for the hanging 
of bacon, which were cloaked with long 
shreds of soot, floating on the draught hke 
the tattered banners on the walls of ancient 

These points were common to most 
chimney-corners of the neighbourhood ; but 
one feature there was which made Geof- 
frey's fireside not only an object of interest 
to casual aristocratic visitors — to whom 
every cottage fireside was more or less a 
curiosity — but the admiration of friends 
who were accustomed to fireplaces of the 


ordinary hamlet model. This peculiarity- 
was a little window in the chimney-back, 
almost over the fire, around which the 
smoke crept caressingly when it left the per- 
pendicular course. The window-board was 
curiously stamped with black circles, burnt 
thereon by the heated bottoms of drinking- 
cups, which had rested there after pre- 
viously standing on the hot ashes of the 
hearth for the purpose of warming their 
contents, the result giving to the ledge 
the look of an envelope which has passed 
through innumerable post-offices. 

Fancy was gliding about the room pre- 
paring dinner, her head inclining now to 
the right, now to the left, and singing the 
tips and ends of tunes that sprang up in 
her- mind like mushrooms. The footsteps 
of Mrs. Day could be heard in the room 
overhead. Fancy went finally to the door. 

' Father ! Dinner.' 

A tall spare figure was seen advancing 
by the window with periodical steps, and 
the keeper entered from the garden. He 
appeared to be a man who was always look- 


ing down, as if trying to recollect some- 
thing he said yesterday. The surface of 
his face was fissured rather than wrinkled, 
and over and under his eyes were folds 
which seemed as a kind of exterior eyelids. 
His nose had been thrown backwards by 
a blow in a poaching fray, so that when 
the sun was low and shining in his face, 
people could see far into his head. There 
was in him a quiet grimness, which would 
in his moments of displeasure have become 
surliness, had it not been tempered by 
honesty of soul, and which was often wrong- 
headedness because not allied with sub- 

Although not an extraordinarily taci- 
turn man among friends slightly richer 
than he, he never wasted words upon out- 
siders, and to his trapper Enoch his ideas 
were seldom conveyed by any other meaos 
than nods and shakes of the head. Their 
long acquaintance with each other's ways, 
and the nature of their labours, rendered 
words between them almost superfluous 
as vehicles of thought, whilst the coincid- 


ence of their horizons, and the astonishing 
equality of their social views, by startling 
the keeper from time to time as very dam- 
aging to the theory of master and man, 
strictly forbade any indulgence in words as 

Behind the keeper came Enoch (who 
had been assisting in the garden) at the 
well-considered chronological distance of 
three minutes — an interval of non-appear- 
ance on the trapper's part not arrived at 
without some reflection. Four minutes 
had been found to express indifference to 
indoor arrangements, and simultaneousness 
had implied too great an anxiety about 

' A little earlier than usual. Fancy,' the 
keeper said, as he sat down and looked at 
the clocks. ' That Ezekiel Sparrowgrass 
o' thine is tearing on afore Thomas Wood 

' I kept in the middle between them, 
said Fancy, also looking at the two 

' Better stick to Thomas,' said her fii- 


ther. ' There's a healthy beat in Thomas 
that would lead a man to swear by en off- 
hand. He is as true as the Squire's time. 
How is it your stap-mother isn't here?' 

As Fancy was about to reply, the rattle 
ofwhet^ls was heard, and 'We^-hey, Smart!* 
in Mr. Eichard Dewy's voice rolled into 
the cottage from round the corner of the 

' Hullo ! there's Dewy's cart come for 
thee, Fancy — Dick driving — afore time, 
too. Well, ask the lad to have a bit and 
a drop with us.' 

Dick on entering made a point of im- 
plying by his general bearing that he took 
an interest in Fancy simply as in one 
of the same race and country as himself; 
and they all sat down. Dick could have 
wished her manner had not been so en- 
tirely free from all apparent consciousness 
of those accidental meetings of theirs ; but 
he let the thought pass. Enoch sat dia- 
gonally at a table afar off, under the corner 
cupboard, and drank his cider from a long 
perpendicular pint cup, having tall fir-trees 


done in brown on its sides. He tiirew 
occasional remarks into the general tide 
of conversation, and with this advantage 
to himself, that he participated in the plea- 
sures of a talk (slight as it was) at meal- 
times, without saddling himself with the 
responsibility of sustaining it. 

*Why don't your stap- mother come 
down, Fancy? said Geoffrey. 'You'll ex- 
cuse her, Mister Dick, she's a little quare 

*0 yes, — quite,' said Richard, as if he 
were in the habit of excusing several people 
every day. 

' She d'belong to that class of woman- 
kind that become second wives : a rum class 

' Indeed,' said Dick, with sympathy for 
an indefinite something. 

' Yes ; and 'tis trying to a female, espe- 
cially if you've been a first wife, as she 

' Very trpng it must be.' 

' Yes : you see her first husband was a 
young man, who let her go too far ; in fact, 


she used to kick up Bob's- a -dying at the 
least thing in the world. And when I'd mar- 
ried her and found it out, I thought, thinks 
I, "'Tis too late now to begin to cure ye;" 
and so I let her bide. But she's quare, — 
very quare, at times !' 

' I'm sorry to hear that.' 

* Yes : there ; wives be such a provoking 
class of society, because though they be never 
right, they be never more than half wrong.* 

Fancy seemed uneasy under the infliction 
of this household moralising, which might 
tend to damage the airy-fairy nature that 
Dick, as maiden shrewdness told her, had 
accredited her with. Her dead silence im- 
pressed Geoffrey with the notion that some- 
thing in his words did not agree with her 
educated ideas, and he changed the conver- 

' Did Fred Shinar send the cask o' drink, 
Fancy ? 

' I think he did : yes, he did.' 

* Nice solid feller, Fred Shinar I' said 
Geoffrey to Dick as he helped himself to 
gravy, bringing the spoon round to his plate 


by way of the potato-dish, to obviate a stain 
on the cloth in the event of a spill. 

Geoffrey's eyes had been fixed upon his 
plate for the previous four or five minutes, 
and in removing them he had only carried 
them to the spoon, which, from its fulness 
and the distance of its transit, necessitated a 
steady watching through the whole of the 
route. Just as intently as the keeper's eyes 
had been fixed on the spoon, Fancy's had 
been fixed on her father's, without premedi- 
tation or the slightest phase of furtiveness ; 
but there they were fastened. This was the 
reason why : 

Dick was sitting next to her on the right 
side, and on the side of the table opposite to 
her father. Fancy had laid her right hand 
lightly down upon the table-cloth for an in- 
stant, and to her alarm Dick, after dropping 
his fork and brushing his forehead as a rea- 
son, flung down his own left hand, overlap- 
ping a third of Fancy's with it, and keeping 
it there. So the innocent Fancy, instead of 
pulling her hand from the trap, settled her 
eyes on her father's, to guard against his dis- 


covery of this perilous game of Dick's. Dick 
finished his mouthful; Fancy finished her 
crumb, and nothing was done beyond watch- 
ing Geoffrey ^s eyes. Then the hands slid 
apart ; Fancy's going over six inches of cloth, 
Dick's over one. Geoffrey's eye had risen. 
' I said Fred Shinar is a nice solid feller/ 
he repeated, more emphatically. 

* He is; yes, he is,' stammered Dick ; 'but 
to me he is little more than a stranger.' 

* True. There, I know en as well as any 
man can be known. And you know en very 
well too, don't ye. Fancy ?' 

Geoffrey put on a tone expressing that 
these words signified at present about one 
hundred times the amount of meaning they 
conveyed literally. 

Dick looked anxious. 

'Will you pass me some bread?' said 
Fancy in a flurry, the red of her face be- 
coming slightly disordered, and looking as 
solicitous as a human being could look about 
a piece of bread. 

'Ay, that I will,' replied the unconscious 
Geoffrey. 'Ay,' he continued, returning to 


the displaced idea, ' we be likely to remain 
friendly wi' Mr. Shinar if the wheels d'run 

^An excellent thing — a very capital 
thing, as I should say,' the youth answered 
with exceeding relevance, considering that 
his thoughts, instead of following Geof- 
frey's remark, were nestling at a distance 
of about two feet on his left the whole time. 

*A young woman's face will turn the 
north wind. Master Richard; my heart if 
*twon't.* Dick looked more anxious and was 
attentive in earnest at these words. ' Yes ; 
turn the north wind,' added Geoffrey after 
an emphatic pause. * And though she's one 
of my own flesh and blood ' 

* Will you fetch down a bit of raw-mil' 
cheese from pantry-shelf,' Fancy interrupted, 
as if she were famishing. 

* Ay, that I will, chiel, chiel, says I, and 
Mr. Shinar only asking last Saturday night 
.... cheese you said, Fancy ?' 

Dick controlled his emotion at these 
mysterious allusions to Mr. Shinar, — the 
better enabled to do so by perceiving that 


Fancy's heart went not with her father's — 
and spoke like a stranger to the affairs of 
the neighbourhood. ' Yes, there's a great 
deal to be said upon the power of maiden 
faces in settling your courses,' he said as 
the keeper retreated for the cheese. 

'The conversation is taking a very strange 
turn : nothing that / have ever done war- 
rants such things being said,' murmured 
Fancy with emphasis, just loud enough to 
reach Dick's ears. 

' You think to yourself, 'twas to be,' cried 
Enoch from his distant corner, by way of 
filling up the vacancy caused by Geoffrey's 
momentary absence. 'And so you marry her, 
Master Dewy, and there's an end o't.' 

' Pray don't say such things, Enoch,' said 
Fancy severely, upon which Enoch relapsed 
into servitude. 

' If we are doomed to marry, we marry ; 
if we are doomed to remain single, we do/ 
replied Dick. 

Geoffrey had by this time sat down again, 
and he now made his lips thin by severely 
straining them across his gums, and looked 


out of the fireplace window to the end of 
the paddock with solemn scrutiny. ' That's 
not the case with some folk,' he said at 
length, as if he read the words on a board 
at the farther end of the paddock. 

Fancy looked interested, and Dick said, 

' There's that wife o' mine. It was her 
doom not to be nobody's wife at all in the 
wide universe. But she made up her mind 
that she would, and did it twice over. 
Doom? Doom is nothing beside a elderly 
woman — quite a chiel in her hands.' 

A movement was now heard along the 
upstairs passage and footsteps descending. 
The door at the foot of the stairs opened 
and the second Mrs. Day appeared in view, 
looking fixedly at the table as she advanced 
towards it, with apparent obliviousness of 
the presence of any other human being 
than herself. In short, if the table had 
been the personages, and ihe persons the 
table, her glance would have been the most 
natural imaginable. 

She showed herself to possess an ordi- 


nary woman's face, iron-gray hair, hardly 
any hips, and a great deal of cleanliness 
in a broad white apron-string, as it appeared 
upon the waist of her dark stuff dress. 

' People will run away with a story now, 
I suppose,' she began saying, 'that Jane 
Day's tablecloths be as poor and ragged as 
any union beggar's !' 

Dick now perceived that the tablecloth 
was a little the worse for wear, and reflect- 
ing for a moment, concluded that 'people' 
in step-mother language probably meant 
himself On lifting his eyes he found that 
Mrs. Day had vanished again upstairs, and 
presently returned with an armful of new 
damask- linen tablecloths, folded square and 
hard as boards by long compression. These 
she flounced down into a chair; then took 
one, shook it out from its folds, and spread 
it on the table by instalments, transferring 
the plates and dishes one by one from the 
old to the new cloth. 

' And I suppose they'll say, too, that she 
hasn't a decent knife and fork in her house !' 

'I shouldn't say any such ill-natured 


thing, I am sure — ' began Dick. But Mrs. 
Day had vanished into the next room. Fancy 
appeared distressed. 

' Very strange woman, isn't she ? said 
Geoffrey, quietly going on with his dinner. 
' But 'tis too late to attempt curing. My 
heart ! 'tis so growed into her that 'twould 
kill her to take it out. Ay, she's very 
quare: you'd be amazed to see what valu- 
able goods we've got stowed away upstairs.' 

Back again came Mrs. Day with a box of 
bright steel horn - handled knives, silver 
forks, carver, and all complete. These were 
wiped of the preservative oil which coated 
them, and then a knife and fork were laid 
down to each individual with a bang, the 
carving knife and fork thrust into the meat 
dish, and the old ones they had hitherto 
used tossed away. 

Geofirey placidly cut a slice with the 
new knife and fork, and asked Dick if he 
wanted any more. 

The table had been spread for the 
mixed midday meal of dinner and tea, 
which is common among cottagers. 'The 


parishioners about here/ continued Mrs 
Day, not looking at any living being, but 
snatching up the brown delf tea-things, ' be 
the laziest, gossipest, poachest, jailest set 
of any ever I come among. And they'll 
talk about my teapot and tea-things next, I 
suppose!' She vanished with the teapot, 
cups, and saucers, and reappeared with a 
tea-service in white china, and a packet 
wrapped in brown paper. This was re- 
moved, together with folds of tissue-paper 
underneath; and a brilliant silver teapot 

' I'll help to put the things right,' said 
Fancy soothingly, and rising from her 
seat. ^I ought to have laid out better 
things, I suppose. But' (here she enlarged 
her looks so as to include Dick) 'I have 
been away from home a good deal, and I 
make shocking blunders in my housekeep- 
ing.' Smiles and suavity were then dis- 
pensed all around by the bright little bird. 

After a little more preparation and 
modification, Mrs. Day took her seat at the 
head of the table, and during the latter or 


tea division of the meal, presided with 
much composure. It may cause some sur- 
prise to learn that, now her vagary was 
over, she showed herself to be an excellent 
person with much common sense, and even 
a religious seriousness of tone on matters 
pertaining to her afflictions. 



The effect of Geoffrey's incidental allu- 
sions to Mr. Shinar was to restrain a consi- 
derable quantity of spontaneous chat that 
would otherwise have burst from young 
Dewy along the drive homeward. And a 
certain remark he had hazarded to her, in 
rather too blunt and eager a manner, kept 
the young lady herself even more silent 
than Dick. On both sides there was an 
unwillingness to talk on any but the most 
trivial subjects, and their sentences rarely 
took a larger form tnan could be expressed 
in two or three words. 


Owing to Fancy being later in the day 
than she had promised, the charwoman had 
given up expecting her ; whereupon Dick 
could do no less than stay and see her 
comfortably tided through the disagreeable 
time of entering and establishing herself in 
an empty house after an absence of a week. 
The additional furniture and utensils that 
had been brought (a canary and cage among 
the rest) w^ere taken out of the vehicle, and 
the horse was unharnessed and put in the 
school plot, where there was some tender 
grass. Dick lighted the fire; and activity 
began to loosen their tongues a little. 

' There !' said Fancy, ' we forgot to 
bring the fire-irons !' 

She had originally found in her house, 
to bear out the expression * nearly fur- 
nished' which the school-manager had used 
in his letter to her, a table, three chairs, a 
fender, and a piece of carpet. This * nearly* 
had been supplemented hitherto by a kind 
friend, who had lent her fire - irons and 
crockery until she should fetch some from 


Dick attended to the young lady's fire, 
using his whip-handle for a poker till it 
was spoilt, and then flourishing a hurdle 
stick for the remainder of the time. 

' The kettle boils ; now you shall have 
a cup of tea,' said Fancy, diving into the 
hamper she had brought. 

' Thank you,' said Dick, whose drive 
had made him ready for a cup, especially 
in her company. 

* Well, here's only one cup and saucer, 
as I breathe ! Whatever could mother be 
thinking about ? Do you mind making shift, 
Mr. Dewy ?' 

* Not at all, Miss Day,' said that civil 

* And only having a cup by itself? or a 
saucer by itself?' 

' Don't mind in the least.* 
' Which do you mean by that ?' 
'I mean the cup, if you like thb 

' And the saucer, if I like the cup ?' 
' Exactly, Miss Day.' 

* Thank you, Mr. Dewy, for I like the 


cup decidedly. Stop a minute ; there are 
no spoons now !' She dived into the ham- 
per again, and at the end of two or three 
minutes looked up and said, ' I suppose 
you don't mind if I can't find a spoon?' 

' Not at all,' said the agreeable Richard 

'The fact is, the spoons have slipped 
down somewhere; right under the other 
things. yes, here's one, and only one. 
You would rather have one than not, I 
suppose, Mr. Dewy?' 

'Rather not. I never did care much 
about spoons.' 

*Then I'll have it. I do care about 
them. You must stir up your tea with a 
knife. Would you mind lifting the kettle 
ofi^, that it may not boil dry?' 

Dick leaped to the fireplace, and ear- 
nestly removed the kettle. 

' There I you did it so wildly that you 
have made your hand black. We always 
use kettle-holders; didn't you learn house- 
wifery as far as that, Mr. Dewy? Well, 
never mind the soot on your hand. Comr 
here. I am going to rinse mine, too.' 


They went to a basin she had placed in 
the back room. ^This is the only basin I 
have/ she said. *Turn up your sleeves, 
and by that time my hands will be washed, 
and you can come.' 

Her hands were in the water now. ' 0, 
how vexing I' she exclaimed. ' There's not a 
drop of water left for you, unless you draw 
it, and the well is I don't know how many 
feet deep ; all that was in the pitcher I used 
for the kettle and this basin. Do you mind 
dipping the tips of your fingers in the 
same f 

^ Not at all. And to save time I won't 
wait till you have done, if you have no 
objection ?' 

Thereupon he plunged in his hands, and 
they paddled together. It being the first 
time in his life that he had touched female 
fingers under water, Dick duly registered 
the sensation as rather a nice one. 

' Really, I hardly know which are my 
own hands and which are yours, they have 
got so mixed up together,' she said, with 
drawing her own very suddenly. 


* It doesn't matter at all/ said Dick, ' at 
least as far as I am concerned.' 

^ There ! no towel I Whoever thinks of a 
towel till the hands are wet ?' 


* " Nobody." How very dull it is when 
people are so friendly I Come here, Mr. 
Dewy. Now do you think you could lift 
the lid of that box with your elbow, and 
then, with something or other, take out a 
towel you will find under the clean clothes ? 
Be sure don't touch any of them with your 
wet hands, for the things at the top are all 
Starched and Ironed.' 

Dick managed, by the aid of a knife and 
fork, to extract a towel from under a muslin 
dress without wetting the latter ; and for a 
moment he ventured to assume a tone of 

' I fear for that dress,' he said, as they 
wiped their hands together. 

* What ?' said Miss Day, looking into the 
box at the dress alluded to. * 0, I know 
what you mean — that the vicar will never 
let me wear muslin T 



' Well, I know it is condemned by all 
parties in the church as flaunting, and un- 
fit for common wear for girls below clerical 
condition; but we'll see/ 

' In the interest of the church, 1 hope 
you don't speak seriously.' 

' Yes, I do ; but we'll see.' There was a 
comely determination on her lip, very plea- 
sant to a beholder who was neither bishop, 
priest, nor deacon. 'I think I can manage 
any vicar's views about me if he's under 

Dick rather wished she had never 
thought of managing vicars. 

' I certainly shall be glad to get some of 
your delicious tea,' he said in rather a free 
way, yet modestly, as became one in a posi- 
tion between that of visitor and inmate, asd 
looking wistfully at his lonely saucer. 

' So shall I. Now is there anything else 
we want, Mr. Dewy ?' 

' I really think there's nothing else, Miss 

She prepared to sit down, looking mus- 


ingly out of the window at Smart's enjoy- 
ment of the rich grass. * Nobody seems to 
care about me/ she murmured, with large 
lost eyes fixed upon the sky beyond 

'Perhaps Mr. Shinar does,' said Dick, 
in the tone of a slightly injured man. 

' Yes, I forgot — he does, I know.' Dick 
precipitately regretted that he had suggested 
Shinar, since it had produced such a miser- 
able result as this. 

* I'll warrant you'll care for somebody 
very much indeed another day, won't you, 
Mr. Dewy ?' she continued, looking very 
feelingly into the mathematical centre of 
his eyes. 

^Ah, I'll warrant I shall,' said Dick, 
feelingly too, and looking back into her 
dark pupils, whereupon they were turned 

* I meant,' she went on, preventing him 
from speaking just as he was going to nar- 
rate a forcible story about his feelings ; ^ I 
meant that nobody comes to see if I have 
returned — not even the vicar ' 


' If you want to see him, I'll call at the 
vicarage directly we have had some tea.' 

' No, no ! Don't let him come down 
here, whatever you do, whilst I am in such 
a state of disarrangement. Yicars look so 
miserable and awkward when one's house 
is in a muddle ; walking about, and making 
impossible suggestions in quaint academic 
phrases tiU your flesh creeps and you wish 
them dead. Do you take sugar ?' 

Mr. Maybold was at this instant seen 
coming up the path. 

' There ! That's he coming ! How I 
wish you were not here 1 — that is, how 
awkward — dear, dear !' she exclaimed, with 
a quick ascent of blood to her face, and 
irritated with Dick rather than the vicar, 
as it seemed. 

^ Pray don't be alarmed on my account. 
Miss Day — good-afternoon!' said Dick in a 
hufl^, putting on his hat, and leaving the 
room hastily by the back-door. 

The horse was put in, and on mounting 
the shafts to start, he saw through the win- 
dow the vicar standing upon some books 


piled in a chair, and driving a nail into the 
wall ; Fancy, with a demure glance, holding 
the canary-cage up to him, as if she had 
never in her life thought of anything but 
vicars and canaries. 



For several minutes Dick drove along 
homeward, with the inward eye of reflection 
so anxiously set on his passages at arms 
with Fancy, that the road and scenery were 
as a thin mist over the real pictures of his 
mind. Was she a coquette ? The balance 
between the evidence that she did love him 
and that she did not was so nicely struck, 
that his opinion had no stability. She had 
let him put his hand upon hers; she had 
allowed her eyes to drop plump into the 
depths of his — his into hers — three or four 
times : her manner had been very free with 


regard to the basin aiid towel ; she had ap- 
peared vexed at the mention of Shinar. On 
the other hand, she had driven him about 
the house like a quiet dog or cat, said Shinar 
cared for her, and seemed anxious that Mr. 
Maybold should do the same. 

Thinking thus as he turned the corner 
at Mellstock Cross, sitting on the front 
board of the spring cart — his legs on the 
outside, and his whole frame jigging up and 
down like a candle -flame to the time of 
Smart's trotting — who should he see commg 
down the hill but his father in the light 
wagon, quivering up and down on a smaller 
scale of shakes, those merely caused by the 
stones in the road. They were soon cross- 
ing each other's front. 

* Weh-hey I' said the tranter to Smiler. 

*Weh-hey!' said Dick to Smart, in an 
echo of the same voice. 

' Th'st hauled her over, I suppose?' Reu- 
ben inquired peaceably. 

' Yes,' said Dick, with such a clinching 
period at the end that it seemed he was 
never going to add another word. Smiler, 


thinking this the close of the conversation, 
prepared to move on. 

*Weh-hey!' said the tranter. 'I tell 
thee what it is, Dick. That there maid is 
taking up thy thoughts more than's good 
for thee, my sonny. Thou'rt never happy 
now unless th'rt making thyself miserable 
about her in one way or another.* 

* I don't know about that, father,* said 
Dick rather stupidly. 

' But I do— Wey, SmHer!— 'Od rot the 
women, 'tis nothing else wi' 'em nowadays 
but getting young men and leading 'em 

* Pooh, father ! you just repeat what all 
the common world says ; that's all you do.' 

* The world's a very sensible feller on 
things in jineral, Dick ; a very sensible party 

Dick looked into the distance at a vast 
expanse of mortgaged estate. 'I wish I 
was as rich as a lord when he^s as poor 
as a crow,' he murmured; 'I'd soon ask 
Fancy something.' 

* I wish so too, wi' all my heart, sonny ; 


that I do. Well, mind what beest about, 
that's all.' 

Smart moved on a step or two. * Sup- 
posing now, father — We-hey, Smart ! — I did 
think a little about her, and I had a chance, 
which I hadn't; don't you think she's a very 
good sort of— of — one ?' 

' Ay, good ; she's good enough. When 
you've made up your mind to marry, take 
the first respectable body that comes to 
hand — she's as good as any other; they be 
all alike in the groundwork : 'tis only in the 
flourishes there's a difference. She's good 
enough ; but I can't see what the nation a 
young feller like you — wi' a comfortable 
house and home, and father and mother to 
take care o' thee, and who sent 'ee to a 
school so good that 'twas hardly fair to the 
other children — should want to go hollering 
after a young woman for, when she's quietly 
making a husband in her pocket, and not 
troubled by chick nor chiel, to make a 
poverty-stric' wife and family of her, and 
neither hat, cap, wig, nor waistcoat to 
set 'em up wi': be drowned if I can see 


it, and that's the long and short o't, my 
sonny !' 

Dick looked at Smart's ears, then up the 
hill ; but no reason was suggested by any 
object that met his gaze. 

'For about the same reason that you 
did, father, I suppose.' 

'Dang it, my sonny, thou'st got me 
there !' and the tranter gave vent to a grim 
admiration, with the mien of a man who 
was too magnanimous not to appreciate a 
slight rap on the knuckles, even if they 
were his own. 

'Whether or no,' said Dick, 'I asked 
her a thing going along the road.' 

' Come to that, is it ? Turk ! won't thy 
mother be in a taking ! Well, she's ready, 
I don't doubt?' 

' I didn't ask her anything about having 
me ; and if you'll let me speak, I'll tell *ee 
what I want to know. I just said, Did she 
care about me ?' 


* And then she said nothing for a quar- 
ter of a mile, and then she said she didn't 


know Now, what I want to know is, what 
was the meaning of that speech ?' The 
latter words were spoken resolutely, as if 
be didn't care for the ridicule of all the 
fathers in creation. 

* The maning of that speech is,' the tran- 
ter replied deliberately, Hhat the maning is 
rather hid at present. Well, Dick, as an 
honest father to thee, I don't pretend to 
deny what you d'know well enough; that 
is, that her father being rather better in the 
world than we, I should welcome her ready 
enough if it must be somebody.' 

^But what d'ye think she really did 
mean?' said Dick. 

* I'm afeard I ben't o* much account in 
guessing, especially as I was not there when 
she said it, and seeing that your mother 
was the only woman I ever cam into such 
close quarters as that wi'.' 

* And what did mother say to you when 
you asked her?' said Dick musingly. 

* I don't see that that will help ye/ 

* The principle is the same.' 

' Well— ay : what did she say ? Let's see. 


I was oiling my working- day boots without 
taking 'em off, and wi' my head hanging 
down, when she just brushed on by the 
garden hatch like a flittering leaf. " Ann,'^ 
I said, says I, and then, — but, Dick, I be 
afeard ^twill be no help to thee; for we 
were such a rum couple, your mother and 
I, leastways one half was, that is myself-— 
and your mother's charms was more in the 
manner than the material.' 

' Never mind ! " Ann," said you.* 
'^'Ann," said I, as I was saying . . . 
" Ann,'' I said to her when I was oiling my 
working-day boots wi' my head hanging 
down, ''Woot hae me?" .... What came 
next I can't quite call up at this distance 
o' time. Perhaps your mother would know, 
— she's a better memory for her little tri- 
umphs than I. However, the long and the 
short o' the story is that we were married 
somehow, as I found afterwards. 'Twas on 
White Tuesday, — Mellstock Club walked 
the same day, every man two and two, and 
a fine day 'twas, — hot as fire, — the sun did 
strik' down upon my back going to church ! 


I well can mind what a bath o' sweating I 
was in, body and mind I But Fance will 
ha' thee, Dick — she won't walk wi' another 
chap — no such good luck.' 

^ 1 don't know about that,' said Dick, 
whipping at Smart's flank in a fanciful way, 
which, as Smart knew, meant nothing in 
connection with going on. ^ There's Pa'son 
Maybold, too — that's all against me.' 

'What about he ? She's never been stuff- 
ing into thy innocent heart that he's in love 
wi' her? Lord, the vanity o' maidens!' 

* No, no. But he called, and she looked 
at him in such a way, and at me in such a 
way — quite different the ways were, — and 
as I was coming off, there was he hanging 
up her birdcage.' 

^ Well, why shouldn't the man hang up 
her birdcage ? Turk seize it all, what's that 
got to do wi' it? Dick, that thou beest a 
white -lyvered chap I don't say, but if thou 
beestn't as mad as a cappel-faced bull, let 
me smile no more.' 

'0, ay.' 

* And what's think now, Dick? 


' I don't know.' 

' Here's another pretty kettle o' fish for 
thee. Who d'ye think's the bitter weed in 
our being turned out? Did our party tell'ee?' 

' No. Why, Pa'son Maybold, I suppose.' 

* Shinar, — because he's in love with thy 
young woman, and d'want to see her young 
figure sitting up at that quare instrume't, 
and her young fingers rum-strumming upon 
the keys.* 

A sharp ado of sweet and bitter was 
going on in Dick during this communication 
from his father. * Shinar s a fool I — ^no, that's 
not it; I don^t believe any such thing, 
father. Why, Shinar would never take a 
determined step like that, unless she'd been 
a little made up to, and had taken it kindly. 

'Who's to say she didn't?' 

'I do.' 

' The more fool you.' 

' Why, father of me ?' 

' Has she ever done more to thee T 


' Then she has done as much to he — rot 


'em ! Now, Dick, this is how a maiden is. 
Shell swear she's djdng for thee, and she is 
dying for thee, and she will die for theej 
but she'll fling a look over t'other shoulder 
at another young feller, though never leav- 
ing off dying for thee just the same.' 

* She's not dying for me, and so she 
didn't fling a look at him.' 

' But she may be dying for him, for she 
looked at thee.' 

*I don't know what to make of it at 
all,' said Dick gloomily. 

* All I can make of it is,' the tranter said, 
raising his whip, arranging his different 
joints and muscles, and motioning to the 
horse to move on, * that if you can't read a 
maid's mind by her motions, nater d'seem to 
say thou'st ought to be a bachelor. Clk, elk ! 
Smiler !' And the tranter moved on. 

Dick held Smart's rein firmly, and the 
whole concern of horse, cart, and man re- 
mained rooted in the lane. How long this 
condition would have lasted is unknown, had 
not Dick's thoughts, after adding up numer- 
ous items of misery, gradually wandered 


round to the fact, that as somethmg must 
be done, it could not be done by staying 
there all night. 

Reaching home he went up to his bed- 
room, shut the door as if he were going to 
be seen no more in this life, and taking a 
sheet of paper and uncorking the ink-bottle, 
he began a letter. The dignity of the writer's 
mind was so powerfully apparent in every 
line of this effusion, that it obscured the 
logical sequence of facts and intentions to 
such an appreciable degree that it was not 
at all clear to a reader whether he there and 
then left off loving Miss Fancy Day; whether 
he had never loved her seriously, and never 
meant to ; whether he had been dying up to 
the present moment, and now intended to 
get well again ; or whether he had hitherto 
been in good health, and intended to die for 
her forthwith. 

He put this letter in an envelope, sealed 
it up, directed it in a stern handwriting of 
straight firm dashes — easy flourishes being 
rigorously excluded. He walked with it in 
his pocket down the lane in strides not an 


inch less than three feet and a half long. 
Reaching her gate he put on a resolute ex- 
pression — then put it off again, turned back 
homeward, tore up his letter, and sat down. 

That letter was altogether in a wrong 
tone — that he must own. A heartless man- 
of- the- world tone was what the juncture re- 
quired. That he rather wanted her, and ra- 
ther did not want her — the latter for choice ; 
but that as a member of society he didn't 
mind making a query in plain terms, which 
could only be answered in the same plain 
terms : did she mean anything by her bear- 
ing towards him, or did she not ? 

This letter was considered so satisfactory 
in every way that, being put into the hands 
of a little boy, and the order given that he 
was to run with it to the school, he was told 
ivi addition not to look behind him if Dick 
called after him to bring it back, but to run 
along with it just the same. Having taken 
this precaution against vacillation, Dick 
watched his messenger down the road, and 
turned into the house whistling an air in 
such ghastly jerks and starts, that whisthng 


seemed to be the act the very farthest re- 
moved from that which was instinctive in 
such a youth. 

The letter was left as ordered : the next 
morning came and passed — and no answer. 
The next. The next. Friday night came. 
Dick resolved that if no answer or sign were 
given by her the next day, on Sunday he 
would meet her face to face, and have it all 
out by word of mouth. 

'Dick,' said his father, coming in from 
I the garden at that moment — in each hand a 
hive of bees tied in a cloth to prevent their 
egress — ' I think you'd better take these two 
swarms of bees to Mrs. Maybold's to-morrow, 
instead o' me, and I'll go wi' Smiler and the 

It was a relief; for Mrs. Maybold, the 
vicar's mother, who had just taken into her 
head a fancy for keeping bees (pleasantly 
disguised under the pretence of its being an 
economical wish to produce her own honey), 
lived at a watering-place fourteen miles off, 
and the business of transporting the hives 
thither would occupy the whole day, and to 


some extent annihilate the vacant time be- 
tween this evening and the coming Sunday. 
The best spring-cart was washed throughout, 
the axles oiled, and the bees piaced therein 
for the journey. 

Tart III Summer. 

Chapter I. Driving out of Budmouth. 

An easy bend of neck and graceful set of 
head ; full and wavy bundles of dark- 
brown hair ; light fall of little feet ; pretty 
devices on the skirt of the dress ; clear deep 
eyes ; in short, a bunch of sweets : it was 
Fancy ! Dick's heart went round to her 
with a rush. 

The scene was the corner of the front 
street at Budmouth, at which point the 
angle of the last house in the row cuts per- 
pendicularly a wide expanse of nearly mo- 
tionless ocean — to-day, shaded in bright 
tones of green and opal. Dick and Smart 
had just emerged from the street, and there, 
against the brilliant sheet of liquid colour, 
stood Fancy Day; and she turned and re- 
cognised him. 


Dick suspended his thoughts of the let- 
ter and wonder at how she came there by 
driving close to the edge of the parade — 
displacing two chairmen, who had just come 
to life for the summer in new clean shirts 
and revivified clothes, and being almost 
displaced in turn by a rigid boy advancing 
with a roll under his arm, and looking nei- 
ther to the right nor the left — and asking 
if she were going to Mellstock that night. 

* Yes, I^m waiting for the carrier,* she 
replied, seeming, too, to suspend thoughts 
of the letter. 

* Now I can drive you home nicely, and 
you save an hour. Will you come with 

As Fancy's power to will anything 
seemed to have departed in some myste- 
rious manner at that moment, Dick settled 
the matter by getting out and assisting her 
into the vehicle without another word. 

The temporary flush upon her cheek 
changed to a leeser hue, which was perma- 
nent, and at length their eyes met; there 
was present between them a certain feeling 


of embarrassment, which arises at such mo- 
ments when all the instinctive acts dictated 
by the position have been performed. Dick, 
being engaged with the reins, thought less 
of this awkwardness than did Fancy, who 
had nothing to do but to feel his presence, 
and to be more and more conscious of the 
fact, that by accepting a seat beside him in 
this way she succumbed to the tone of his 
note. Smart jogged along, and Dick jogged, 
and the helpless Fancy necessarily jogged, 
too; and she felt that she was in a measure 
captured and made a prisoner. 

* I am so much obliged to you for your 
company, Miss Day.' 

To Miss Day, crediting him with the 
same consciousness of mastery — a con- 
sciousness of which he was perfectly inno- 
cent — this remark sounded like a magnani- 
mous intention to soothe her, the captive. 

'I didn't come for the pleasure of ob- 
liging you with my company,^ she said. 

The answer had an unexpected manner 
of incivility in it that must have been rather 
surprising to young Dewy. At the same 


time it may be observed, that when a young 
woman returns a rude answer to a youno^ 
man's civil remark, her heart is in a state 
which argues rather hopefully for his case 
than otherwise. 

There was silence between them till 
they had passed about twenty of the equi- 
distant elm- trees that ornamented the road 
leading up out of the town. 

' Though I didn't come for that purpose 
either, I would have,' said Dick at the 
twenty-first tree. 

'Now, Mr. Dewy, no flirtation, because 
it's wrong, and I don't wish it.' 

Dick seated himself afresh just as he 
had been sitting before, and arranged his 
looks very emphatically, then cleared his 

' Really, anybody would think you had 
met me on business and were just going to 
begin,' said the lady intractably. 

' Yes, they would.' 

' Why, you never have, to be sure !' 

This was a shaky beginning. He chopped 
round, and said cheerily, as a man who 


had resolved never to spoil his jollity by 
loving one of womankind, 

'Well, how are you getting on, Miss 
Day, at the present time? Gaily, I don't 
doubt for a moment.' 

* I am not gay, Dick ; you know that.* 

'Gaily doesn't mean decked in gay 

' I didn't suppose gaily was gaily dressed. 
Mighty me, what a scholar you've grown!' 

'Lots of things have happened to you 
this spring, I see.' 

'What have you seen?' 

' 0, nothing ; I've heard, I mean I' 

' What have you heard ?' 

' The name of a pretty man, with brass 
studs and a copper ring and a tin watch- 
chain, a little mixed up with your own. 
That's all.' 

'That's a very unkind picture of Mr. 
Shinar, for that's who you mean. The 
studs are gold, as you know, and it's 
a real silver chain ; the ring I can't con- 
scientiously defend, and he only wore it 


* He might have worn it a hundred 
times without showing it half so much/ 

'Well, he's nothing to me,' she serenely 

' Not any more than I am ?' 

' Now, Mr. Dewy,' said Fancy severely, 
* certainly he isn't any more to me than 
you are !' 

' Not so much?' 

She looked aside to consider the precise 
compass of that question. 'That I can't ex- 
actly answer,' she replied with soft archness. 

As they were going rather slowly, ano- 
ther spring-cart, containing a farmer, farm- 
er's wife, and farmer's man, jogged past 
them; and the farmers wife and farmer's 
man eyed the couple very curiously. The 
farmer never looked up from the horse's tail. 

'Why can't you exactly answer?' said 
Dick, quickening Smart a little, and jogging 
on just behind the farmer and farmer's wife 
and man. 

As no answer came, and as their eyes had 
nothing else to do, they both contemplated 
the picture presented in front, and noticed 


how the farmer's wife sat flattened between 
the two men. who bulged over each end of 
the seat to give her room, till they almost 
sat upon their respective wheels ; and they 
looked too at the farmer's wife's silk mantle, 
inflating itself between her shoulders like a 
balloon, and sinking flat again, at each jog 
of the horse. The farmer's wife, feelino: 
their eyes sticking into her back, looked 
over her shoulder. Dick dropped ten yards 
farther behind. 

' Fancy, why can't you answer ?' he re- 

' Because how much you are to me de- 
pends upon how much I am to you,' said 
she in low tones. 

'Everything,' said Dick, putting his 
hand towards hers, and casting emphatic 
eyes upon the upper curve of her cheek. 

' Now, Richard Dewy, no touching me. I 
didn't say in what way your thinking of me 
affected the question — perhaps inversely, 
don't you see? No touching, sir! Look; 
goodness me, don't, Dick !' 

The cause of her sudden start was the 


unpleasant appearance over Dick's right 
shoulder of an empty timber-wagon and 
four journeymen-carpenters reclining in lazy 
postures inside it, their eyes directed up- 
wards at various obHque angles into the 
surrounding world, the chief object of their 
existence being apparently to criticise to the 
very backbone and marrow every animate 
object that came within the compass of their 
vision. This difficulty of Dick's was over- 
come by trotting on till the wagon and car- 
penters were beginning to look reduced in 
size and rather misty, by reason of a film of 
dust that accompanied their wagon-wheels, 
and rose around their heads like a fog. 

' Say you love me. Fancy.' 

'No, Dick, certainly not; 'tisn't time 
to do that yet.' 

'Why, Fancy? 

' " Miss Day" is better at present— don t 
mind my saying so; and I ought not to 
have called you Dick.' 

' Nonsense ! when you know that I would 
do anything on earth for your love. Why, 
you make any one think that loving is a 


thing that can be done and undone, and 
put on and put off at a mere whim.' 

' No, no, I don't,^ she said gently ; * but 
there are things which tell me I ought not 
to give way to much thinking about you, 
even if — ' 

' But you want to, don't you ? Yes, say 
you do; it is best to be truthful, Fancy. 
Whatever they may say about a woman's 
right to conceal where her love lies, and 
pretend it doesn't exist, and things Hke 
that, it is not best ; I do know it, Fancy. 
And an honest woman in that, as well as in 
all her daily concerns, shines most brightly, 
and is thought most of in the long-run.' 

^Well then, perhaps, Dick, I do love 
you a little,' she whispered tenderly ; ' but 
I wish you wouldn't say any more now.' 

*I won't say any more now, then, if 
you don't like it. But you do love me a 
little, don't you?' 

*Now you ought not to want me to 
keep saying things twice; I can't say any 
more now, and you must be content with 
what you have.' 


* I may at any rate call you Fancy ? 
There's no harm in thai.' 

* Yes, you may.' 

' And you'll not call me Mr. Dewy any 
more ?' 

* Very well.' 



Dick's spirits having risen in the course 
of these admissions of his sweetheart, he 
now touched Smart with the whip ; and 
on Smart's neck, not far behind his ears. 
Smart, who had been lost in thought for 
some time, never dreaming that Dick could 
reach so far with a whip which, on tVis 
particular journey, had never been ex- 
tended farther than his flank, tossed his 
head, and scampered along with exceeding 
briskness, ^vhich was very pleasant to the 
young couple behind him till, turning a bend 
in the road, they came instantly upon the 


farmer, farmer's man, and farmer's wife 
with the flapping mantle, all jogging on just 
the same as ever. 

' Bother those people ! Here we are 
upon them again.' 

' Well, of course. They have as much 
right to the road as we.' 

' Yes, but it is provoking to be over- 
looked so. I like a road all to myself. 
Look what a lumbering affair theirs is !' 
The wheels of the farmer's cart, just at 
that moment, jogged into a depression run- 
'ning across the road, giving the cart a twist, 
whereupon all three nodded to the left, and 
on coming out of it all three nodded to the 
right, and went on jerking their backs in 
and out as usual. ' We'll pass them when 
the road gets wider.' 

When an opportunity seemed to offer 
itself for carrying this intention into effect, 
they heard light flying wheels behind, and 
on quartering, there whizzed along past 
them a brand-new gig, so brightly polished 
that the spokes of the wheels sent forth a 
continual quivering light at one point in 


their circle, and all the panels glared like 
mirrors in Dick and Fancy's eyes. The 
driver, and owner as it appeared, was really 
a handsome man ; his companion was 
Shinar. Both turned round as they passed 
Dick and Fancy, and stared steadily in her 
face till they were obliged to attend to the 
operation of passing the farmer. Dick 
glanced for an instant at Fancy while she 
was undergoing their scrutiny ; then re- 
turned to his driving with rather a sad 

' Why are you so silent?' she said, after 
a while, mth real concern. 

' Nothing.' 

* Yes, it is, Dick. I couldn't help those 
people passing.' 

' 1 know that.' 

'You look offended with me. "What 
have I done?' 

* I can't tell without offending you.' 

* Better out.' 

'Well,' said Dick, who seemed longing 
to tell, even at the risk of offending her, 
* I was thinking how different you in love 


are from me in love. Whilst those men 
were staring, you dismissed me from your 
thoughts altogether, and — ' 

'You can't offend me farther now; 
tell all; 

' And showed upon your face a flattered 
consciousness of being attractive to them.' 

* Don't be silly, Dick ! You know very 
well I didn't.' 

Dick shook his head sceptically, and 

* Dick, I always believe flattery if pos- 
sible — and it was possible then. Now there's 
an open confession of weakness. But I 
showed no consciousness of it.' 

Dick, perceiving by her look that she 
would adhere to her statement, charitably 
forbore saying anything that could make 
her prevaricate. The sight of Shinar, too, 
had recalled another branch of the subject 
to his mind; that which had been his 
greatest trouble till her company and 
words had obscured its probability. 

' By the way, Fancy, do you know why 
our choir is to be dismissed ?' 


'No: except that it is Mr. Maybold's 
wish for me to play the organ.' 

'Do you know how it came to be his 

'That I don V 

'Mr. Shinar, being churchwarden, has 
persuaded the vicar; who, however, was 
willing enough before. Shinar, I know, is 
crazy to see you playing every Sunday; I 
suppose he'll turn over your music, for the 
organ will be close to his pew. But — 1 
know you have never encouraged him?' 

' Never once !' said Fancy emphatically, 
and with eyes full of earnest truth. ' I don't 
like him indeed, and I never heard of his 
doing this before I I have always felt that 
I should like to play in a church, but I 
never wished to turn you and your choir 
out; and I never even said that I could 
play till I was asked. You don't think for 
a moment that I did, surely, do you ?' 

' I know you didn't. Fancy.' 

' Or that I care the least morsel of a bit 
for him?' 

' I know you don't.' 


The distance between Budmouth and 
Mellstock was eighteen miles, and there 
being a good inn six miles out of Bud- 
mouth, Dick's custom in driving thither 
was to divide his journey into three stages 
by resting at this inn, going and coming, 
and not troubling the Budmouth stables 
at all, whenever his visit to the town was 
a mere call and deposit, as to-day. 

Fancy was ushered into a little tea- 
room, and Dick went to the stables to see 
to the feeding of Smart. In face of the 
significant twitches of feature that were 
visible in the ostler and odd men idling 
around, Dick endeavoured to look uncon- 
scious of the fact that there was any senti- 
ment between him and Fancy beyond a 
tranter's desire to carry a passenger home. 
He presently entered the inn and opened 
the door of Fancy's room. 

* Dick, do you know, it has struck me 
that it is rather awkward, my being here 
alone with you like this. I don't think 
you had better come in with me.' 

* That's rather unpleasant.' 


'Yes, it is, and I wanted you to have 
some tea as well as myself too, because you 
must be tired/ 

' Well, let me have some with you, thea 
I was denied once before, if you recollect. 

'Yes, yes, never mind! And it seems 
unfriendly of me now, but I don't know 
what to do.' 

' It shall be as you say, then,' said Dick, 
beginning to retreat with a dissatisfied 
wrinkling of face, and giving a farewell 
glance at the cosy tea-tray. 

' But you don't see how it is, Dick, when 
you speak like that,' she said, with more 
earnestness than she had ever shown be- 
fore. * You do know, that even if I care 
very much for you, I must remember that I 
have a difficult position to maintain. The 
vicar would not like me, as his school- 
mistress, to indulge in iite-a-tetes anywhere 
with anybody.' 

'But I am not any body!' exclaimed 

' No, no, I mean with a young man ;' and 


she added softly, 'unless I were really 
engaged to be married to him.' 

'Is that all? then, dearest, dearest, why 
we'll be engaged at once, to be sure we 
will, and down I sit! There it is, as easy 
as a glove !' 

' Ah I but suppose I won't I And, good- 
ness me, what have I done!' she faltered, 
getting very red and confused. ' Positively, 
it seems as if I meant you to say that!' 

' Let's do it ! I mean get engaged,' said 
Dick. ' Now, Fancy, will you be my wife ?* 

' Do you know, Dick, it was rather un- 
kind of you to say what you did coming 
along the road,' she remarked, as if she had 
not heard the latter part of his speech; 
though an acute observer might have 
noticed about her breast, as the word 'wife' 
fell from Dick's lips, soft motions consisting 
of a silent escape of pants, with very short 
rests between each. 

'What did I say? 

' About my trying to look attractive to 
those men in the gig.' 

' You couldn't help looking so, whether 


you tried or no. And, Fancy, you do care 
for me?^ 


*"^'ery much?* 


* And you'll be my own wife?' 

Her heart grew boisterous, adding to 
And withdrawing from the cheek varying 
tones of red to match each varying thought. 
Dick looked expectantly at the ripe tint of 
her delicate mouth, waiting for what was 
coming forth. 

' Yes — if father will let me.* 

Dick drew himself close to her, com- 
pressing his lips and pouting them out, as if 
he were about to whistle the softest melody 

' no !' said Fancy solemnly ; and tliC 
modest Dick drew back a little. 

* Dick, Dick, kiss me, and let me go 
instantly! here's somebody coming!' she ex- 

Half an hour afterwards Dick emerged 
from the inn, and if Fancy's lips hac? been 


real cherries, Dick^s would have appeared 
deeply stained. The landlord was standing 
in the yard. 

*Heu-heu! hay-hay, Master Dewy ! Ho- 
ho !' he laughed, letting the laugh slip out 
gently and by degrees, that it might make 
little noise in its exit, and smiting Dick 
under the fifth rib at the same time. ' This 
will never do, upon my life. Master Dewy ! 
calling for tay for a passenger, and then 
going in and sitting down and having some 

*But surely 3"ou know?* said Dick, with 
great apparent surprise. 'Yes, yes! Ha-ha!' 
smiting the landlord under the ribs in 

*Why, what? Yes, yes; ha-ha!* 
* You know, yes ; ha-ha, of course !* 
^ Yes, of course ! But — that is — I don*t.* 
' Why about — between that young lady 
and me?' nodding to the window of the 
room that Fancy occupied. 

'No; not I!* bringing his eyes into 
mathematical circles. 
' And you don't !* 


^ Not a word, I'll take my oath !' 

* But you laughed, when I laughed.* 

* Ay, that was me sympathy ; so did you 
when I laughed !* 

^Really, you don't know? Goodness — 
not knowing that!* 

*ril take my oath I don't!* 

^ yes,* said Dick, with frigid rhetoric 
of pitying astonishment, ^ we*re engaged to 
be married, you see, and I naturally look 
after her.* 

^ Of course, of course ! I didn't know 
that, and I hope ye'll excuse any little frec> 
dom of mine. But it is a very odd thing; 
I was talking to your father very intimate 
about family matters, only last Friday in 
the world, and who should come in but 
keeper Day, and we all then fell a-talking o* 
family matters ; but neither one o' them said 
a mortal word about it ; known me too so 
many years, and I at your father*s own 
wedding. *Tisn*t what I should have ex- 
pected from a old naibour.' 

' Well, to tell the truth, we hadn't told 


father of the engagement at that time ; in 
fact, *twasn't settled.' 

' Ah ! the business was done Sunday. 
Yes, yes, Sunday's the courting day. Heu- 

'No, *twasn't done Sunday in particu- 

^ After school-hours this week? Well, a 
very good time, a very proper good time.* 

* no, *twasn't done then.' 

* Coming along the road to-day then, I 

' Not at all; I wouldn't think of getting 
engaged in a cart.' 

'Dammy — might as well have said at 
once, the vohen be bio wed I Anyhow, 'tis a 
fine day, and I hope next time youll come 
as one.' 

Fancy was duly brought out and as- 
sisted into the vehicle, and the newly- 
affianced youth and maiden passed over the 
bridge, and vanished in the direction of 




It was a morning of the latter sum- 
mer-time; a morning of lingering dews, 
when the grass is never dry in the shade 
Fuchsias and dahlias were laden till eleven 
D'clock with small drops and dashes of 
water, changing the colour of their sparkle 
at every movement of the air, or hanging 
on tmgs like small silver fruit. The threads 
of garden spiders appeared thick and pol- 
ished. In the dry and sunny places, dozens 
of long-legged crane-flies whizzed off the 
grass at every step the passer took. 

Fancy Day and her friend SiLsan Dewy 
were in such a spot as this, pulling down a 
bough laden with early apples. Three 
months had elapsed since Dick and Fancy 
had journeyed together from Budmouth, 
and the course of their love had run on 
vigorously during the whole time. There 
had been just enough difficulty attending 


its development, and just enough JBnesse 
required in keeping it private, to lend the 
passion an ever-increasing freshness on 
Fancy's part, whilst, whether from these 
accessories or not, Dick's heart had been at 
all times as fond as could be desired. But 
there was a cloud on Fancy's horizon now. 

' She is so well off — better than any of 
us,' Susan De^vy was saying. ^ Her father 
farms five hundred acres, and she might 
marry a doctor or curate or anything of that 
kind if she contrived a little.' 

* I don t think Dick ought to have gone 
to that gipsy-party at all when he knew I 
couldn't go,' replied Fancy uneasily. 

' He didn't know that you would not be 
there till it was too late to decline the in- 
vitation,* said Susan. 

'And what was she like? Tell me.' 

*Well, she was rather pretty, I must 

' Tell straight on about her, can't you ! 
Come, do, Susan. How many times did you 
s^y he danced with her?' 



'Twice, I think you said?' 

' Indeed I'm sure I didn't/ 

' Well, and he wanted to again, I expect.' 

' No; I don't think he did. She wanted 
to dance with him again badly enough, I 
know. Everybody does with Dick, because 
he's so handsome and such a clever courter.' 

' 0, 1 wish ! — How did you say she wore 
her hair?' 

'In long curls, — and her hair is light, 
and it curls without being put in paper: 
that's how it is she's so attractive.' 

' She's trying to get him away ! yes, yes, 
she is ! And through keeping this miserable 
school I mustn't wear my hair in curls ! But 
I will; I don't care if I leave the school and 
go home, I will wear my curls ! Look, Su- 
san, do : is her hair as soft and long as this ?' 
Fancy pulled from its coil under her hat a 
twine of her own hair, and stretched it down 
her shoulder to show its length, eagerly 
looking at Susan to catch her opinion from 
her eyes, 

' It is about the same length as that, I 
think/ said Miss Dewy. 


Fancy paused hopelessly. ' I wish mine 
was lighter, like hers !' she contmued mourn- 
fully. ' But hers isn't so soft, is it? Tell 
me, now.* 

* I don't know.* 

Fancy abstractedly extended her vision 
to survey a yellow butterfly and a red-and- 
black butterfly, that were flitting along in 
company, and then became aware that Dick 
was advancing up the garden. 

' Susan, here's Dick coming ; I suppose 
that's because we've been talking about him.' 

' Well, then, I shall go indoors now — you 
won't want me;' and Susan turned practically 
and walked off. 

Enter the single-minded Dick, whose 
only fault at the gipsying, or picnic, had 
been that of loving Fancy too exclusively, 
and depriving himself of the innocent plea- 
sure the gathering might have afforded him, 
by sighing regretfully at her absence, — who 
had danced with the rival in sheer despair 
of ever being able to get through that stale, 
flat, and unprofitable afternoon in any other 
way ; but this she would not believe 

A confessioa: 221 

Fancy had settled her plan of emotion. 
To reproach Dick ? no, no. ' I am in 
great trouble,' said she, taking:; what was 
intended to be a hopelessly melancholy sur- 
vey of a few small apples lying under the 
tree ; yet ft critical ear might have noticed in 
her voice a tentative tone as to the effect of 
the words upon Dick when she uttered them. 

* What are you in trouble about ? Tell 
me of it,' said Dick earnestly. * Darling, I 
will share it with you and help you.' 

* No, no : you can't ! Nobody can!' 

^ Why not? You don^t deserve it, what- 
ever it is. Tell me, dear.' 

^ 0, it isn't what you think ! It is dread- 
ful : my own sin I' 

^ Sin, Fancy ! as if you could sin ! I know 
it can't be.' 

*'Tis, 'tis!' said the young lady, in a 
pretty little frenzy of sorrow. ^ I have done 
wrong, and I don't like to tell it ! Nobody 
will forgive me, nobody ! and you above all 
will not ! . . . . I have allowed myself to — 

*What, — not flirt!' he said, controlling 


his emotion as it were by a sudden pressure 
inward from his surface. ^And you said 
only the day before yesterday that you 
hadn't flirted in your life !' 

^Yes, I did; and that was a wicked 
story ! I have let another love me, and — ' 

' Good G— ! Well, I'll forgive you,— 
yes, if you couldn't help it, — yes, I will!' 
said the now miserable Dick. 'Did you 
encourage him?' 

' 0, 0, 0,-1 don't know,— yes— no. 0, 
I think so!' 

' Who was it?' 

A pause. 

'Tell me!' 

'Mr. Shinar.' 

After a silence that was only disturbed 
by the fall of an apple, a long-checked sigh 
from Dick, and a sob from Fancy, he said 
with real austerity, 

' Tell it all; — every word!' 

' He looked at me, and I looked at him, 
and he said, "Will you let me show you 
how to catch bullfinches down here by the 
stream?'' And I — wanted to know very 


much — I did so long to have a bullfinch I 
I couldn't help that!— and I said, ''Yes!" 
and then he said, '' Come here." And I 
went with him down to the lovely river, 
and then he said to me, '' Look and see 
how I do it, and then you'll know : I put 
this birdlime round this twig, and then I 
go here,'' he said, ''and hide away under 
a bush; and presently clever Mister Bird 
comes and perches upon the twig, and 
flaps his wings, and you've got him before 
you can say Jack" — something; 0, 0, 0, 
I forget what !' 

* Jack Sprat,' mournfully suggested Dick 
through the cloud of his misery. 

' No, not Jack Sprat,' she sobbed. 

' Then 'twas Jack Robinson !' he said, 
with the emphasis of a man who had resolved 
to discover every iota of the truth, or die. 

' Yes, that was it ! And then I put my 
hand upon the rail of the bridge to get 
across, and— That's all.' 

' Well, that isn't much, either,' said Dick 
critically, and more cheerfully. * Not that I 
see what business Shinar has to take upoD 


himself to teach you anything. But it 
seems — it seems there must have been 
more than that to set you up in such a dread- 
ful taJdng ?' 

He looked into Fancy's eyes. Misery of 
miseries ! — ^guilt was written there still. 

^Now, Fancy, you've not ;-old me all!' 
said Dickj rather sternly for a quiet young 

'' 0, don't speak so cruelly ! I am afraid 
to tell now! If you hadn't been harsh, I was 
going 01 to teU all ; now I can't!' 

* Come, dt?ar Fancy, tell : come. I'll 
forgive; I must, — by heaven and earth, I 
must, whether I will or no; I love you so!' 

^Well, when I put my hand on the 
bridge, he touched it — ' 

' A scamp !' said Dick, grinding an ima- 
ginary human frame to powder. 

' And then he looked at mc, and at last 
he said, ^^Are you in love with Dick Dewy?" 
And I said, '^Perhaps I am!" and then he 
said, '' I wish you weren't then, for I want 
to marry you, with all my soul." ' 

'There's a villain now! Want to marry 


you !' And Dick quivered with the bitterness 
of satirical laughter. Then suddenly remem- 
bering that he might be reckoning without 
his host : ' Unless, indeed, you are willing to 
have him, — perhaps .you are,' he said, with 
the wretched indifference of a castaway. 

* No, indeed I am not !' she said, her sobs 
just beginning to take a favourable turn to- 
wards cure. 

^ Well, then,* said Dick, coming a little 
to his senses, * you've been exaggerating 
very much in giving such a dreadful begin- 
ning to such a mere nothing. And I know 
what youVe done it for, — -just because of 
that gipsy-party !' He turned away from her 
and walked five paces decisively, as if he 
were alone in a strange country and had 
never known her. ^ You did it to make me 
jealous, and I won't stand it!' He flung 
the words to her over his shoulder and then 
stalked on, apparently very anxious to walk 
to the colonies that very minute. 

'0, 0, 0, Dick— Dick!' she cried, trot- 
ting after him like a pet lamb, and really 
seriously alarmed at last, * you'll kill me! 


My impulses are bad — ^miserably wicked, — 
and I can't help it; forgive me, Dick! And 
I love you always; and tbose times when 
you look silly and don't seem quite good 
enough for me, — just the same, I do, Dick! 
And there is something more serious, though 
not concerning that walk with him.' 

*Well, what is it? said Dick, altering 
his mind about walking to the colonies ; in 
fact, passing to the other extreme, and stand- 
ing so rooted to the road that he was appa- 
rently not even going home. 

' Why this,* she said, drying the begin- 
ning of a new flood of tears she had been 
going to shed, ' this is the serious part. Fa- 
ther has told Mr. Shinar that he would like 
him for a son-in-law, if he could get me ; — 
that he has his right hearty consent to come 
courting me I' 




'That is serious/ said Dick, more in- 
tellectually than he had spoken for a long 

The truth was that Geoffrey knew no- 
thing about his daughter's continued walks 
and meetings with Dick. When a hint that 
there were symptoms of an attachment be- 
tween them had first reached Geoffrey's ears, 
he stated so emphatically that he must think 
the matter over before any such thing could 
be allowed that, rather unwisely on Dick's 
part, whatever it might have been on the 
lady's, the lovers were careful to be seen 
together no more in public; and Geoffrey, 
forgetting the report, did not think over the 
matter at all. So Mr. Shinar resumed his 
old position in Geoffrey's brain by mere flux 
of time. Even Shinar began to believe that 
Dick existed for Fancy no more,— though 
that remarkably easy-going man had taken 


no active steps on his own account as 

'And father has not only told Mr. 
Shinar that,' continued Fancy, ' but he has 
written me a letter, to say he should wish 
me to encourage Mr. Shinar, if 'twas con- 

'I must start off and see your father 
at once !' said Dick, taking two or three 
vehement steps to the east, recollecting that 
Mr. Day lived to the west, and coming back 

' I think we had better see him together. 
Not tell him what you come for, or any- 
thing of the kind, until he likes you, and so 
win his brain through his heart, which is 
always the way to manage people. I mean 
in this way : I am going home on Saturday 
week to help them in the honey-taking. 
You might come there to me, have some- 
thing to eat and drink, and let him guess 
what your coming signifies, without saying 
it in so majiy words.' 

^ We'll do it, dearest. But I shall ask 
him for you, flat and plain; not wait for 


his guessing.* And the lover then stepped 
close to her, and attempted to give her one 
little kiss on the cheek, his lips alighting, 
however, on an outlying tract of her back 
hair, by reason of an impulse that had 
caused her to turn her head with a jerk. 
'Yes, and I'll put on my second-best suit 
and a clean collar, and black my boots as if 
'twas a Sunday. 'Twill have a good ap- 
pearance, you see, and that's a great deal to 
start with.' 

' You won't wear that old waistcoat, will 
you, Dick?' 

'Bless you, no! Why I— ^ 

'I didn't mean to be personal, dear 
Dick,' she said apologetically, fearing she 
had hurt his feelings. "Tis a very nice 
waistcoat, but what I meant was, that 
though it is an excellent w^aistcoat for a 
settled-down man, it is not quite one for' 
(she waited, and a blush expanded over her 
face, and then she went on again) — 'for 
going courting in.' 

' No, I'll wear my best winter one, with 
the leather lining, that mother made. It is 


a beautiful, handsome waistcoat inside, yes, 
as ever anybody saw. In fact, only the 
other day, I unbuttoned it to show a chap 
that very lining, and he said it was the 
strongest, handsomest linmg you could wish 
to see on the king's waistcoat himself.' 

' / don't quite know what to wear,' she 
said, as if her habitual indifference alone to 
dress had kept back so important a subject 
till now. 

'Why, that blue dress you wore last 

* Doesn't set well round the neck. I 
couldn't wear that.' 

'But I sha'n't care.' 

' No, you won't mind.' 

' Well, then it's all right. Because you 
only care how you look to me, do you, dear? 
I only dress for you, that's certain.' 

' Yes, but you see I couldn't appear in 
it again very well.' 

' Any strange gentleman you may meet 
in your journey might notice the set of it, 
I suppose. Fancy, men in love don't think 
so much about how they appear to other 


women.' It is difficult to say whether a 
tone of playful banter or of gentle reproach 
prevailed in the speech. 

' Well then, Dick,' she said, with good- 
humoured frankness, ' I'll own it. I 
shouldn't like a stranger to see me dressed 
badly, even though I am in love. 'Tis our 
nature, I suppose.' 

* You perfect woman !' 

' Yes; if you lay the stress on " woman,'** 
she murmured, looking at a group of holly- 
hocks in flower, round which a crowd of 
butterflies had gathered like females round 
a bonnet-shop. 

'But about the dress. Why not wear 
the one you wore at our party ?* 

* That sets well, but a girl of the name 
of Bet Taylor, who lives near our house, has 
had one made almost like it (only in pat- 
tern, though of miserably cheap stuff), and 
I couldn't wear it on that account. Dear 
me, I am afraid I can't go now.' 

'0 yes, you must; I know you will!* 
said Dick, with dismay. 'Why not wear 
what you've got on?' 


'What! this old one! After all, I think 
that by wearing my gray one Saturday, I 
can make the blue one do for Sunday. Yes, 
I will. A hat or a bonnet, which shall it 
be? Which do I look best in?' 

' Well, I think the bonnet is nicest, more 
quiet and matronly.' 

'What's the objection to the hat? Does 
it make me look old?' 

'Ono; the hat is well enough; but it 
makes you look rather too — you won't mind 
me saying it, dear?' 

' Not at all, for I shall wear the bonnet/ 

^ — Rather too coquettish and flirty for 
an engaged young woman.' 

She reflected a minute. * Yes, yes. Still, 
after all, the hat would do best; hats are 
best, you see. Yes, I must wear the hat, 
dear Dicky, because I ought to wear a hat, 
you know.' 

Part IV. ^utumn. 

Chapter I. Going Nutting. 

Dick, dressed in his 'second-best' suit, 
burst into Fancy's sitting-room with a glow 
of pleasure on his face. 

It was two o'clock on Friday, the day 
before Fancy's contemplated visit to her 
father, and for some reason connected with 
cleaning the school, the children had had 
given them this Friday afternoon for pas- 
time, in addition to the usual Saturday. 

'Fancy ! it happens just right that it is 
a leisure half day with you. Smart is lame 
in his near-foot-afore, and so, as I can't do 
anything, I've made a hohday afternoon of 
it, and am come for you to go nutting with 

She v\'as sitting by the v/indow, with a 


blue dress lying across her lap, and the 
scissors in her hand. 

'Go nutting! Yes. But Tm afraid I 
can't go for an hour or so.' 

' Why not? 'Tia the only spare after- 
noon we may both have together for 

' This dress of mine, that I am going to 
wear on Sunday at Yalbury ;— I find it sets 
so badly that I must alter it a little, after 
all. I told the dressmaker to make it by 
a pattern I gave her at the time; instead of 
that, she did it her own way, and made me 
look a perfect fright.* 

'How long will you be?* he inquired, 
looking rather disappointed. 

'Not long. Do wait and talk to me; 
come, do, dear.* 

Dick sat down. The talking progressed 
very favourably, amid the snipping and 
sewing, till about half-past two, at which 
time his conversation began to be varied by 
a slight tapping upon his toe with a walk- 
insr-stick he had cut from the hedo;e as he 
came along. Fancy talked and answered 


him, but sometimes the answers were so 
negligently given, that it was evident her 
thoughts lay for the greater part in her lap 
with the blue dress. 

The clock struck three. Dick arose 
from his seat, walked round the room with 
his hands behind him, examining all the 
furniture, then sounded a few notes on the 
harmonium, then looked inside all the 
books he could find, then smoothed Fancy's 
head with his hand. Still the snipping and 
sewing went on. 

The clock struck four. Dick fidgeted 
about, yawned privately ; counted the knots 
in the table, yawned publicly ; counted the 
flies on the ceiling, yawned horribly; went 
into the scullery, and so thoroughly studied 
the principle upon which the pump was con- 
structed, that he could have delivered a 
lecture on the subject. Stepping back to 
Fancy, and finding still that she had not 
done, he went into her garden and looked 
at her cabbages and potatoes, and reminded 
himself that they seemed to him to wear 
a decidedly feminine aspect; then pulled up 


several weeds, and came in again. The clock 
struck five, and still the snipping and sew- 
ing went on. 

Dick attempted to kill a fly, peeled all 
the rind oiF his wallving-stick, then threw 
the stick into the scullery because it was 
spoilt, produced hideous discords from the 
harmonium, and accidentally overturned a 
vase of flowers, the water from which ran 
in a rill across the table and dribbled to 
the floor, where it formed a lake, the shape 
of which, after the lapse of a few minutes, 
he began to modify considerably with his foot, 
till it was like a map of England and Wales. 

' Well, Dick, you needn't have made 
quite such a mess.' 

' Well, I needn't, I suppose.' He walked 
up to the blue dress, and looked at it with a 
rio'id craze. Then an idea seemed to cross 
his brain. 

' Fancy.' 


' I thought you said you were going to 
wear the gray dress all day to-morrow on 
your trip to Yalbury, and in the evening 


too, when I shall be with you, and ask 
your father for you.' 
' So I am.' 

* And the blue one only on Sunday?* 
*And the blue one Sunday.' 

* Well, dear, I sha'n't be there Sunday to 
see it/ 

'No, but such lots of people ^vill be 
looking at me Sunday, you know, and it did 
set so badly round the neck.' 

'I never noticed it, and probably no- 
body else would.' 

' They might.* 

' Then why not wear the gray one on 
Sunday as well? Tis as pretty as the blue 

'I might make the gray one do, cer- 
tainly. But it isn't so good; it didn't cost 
half so much as this one, and besides, it 
would be the same I wore Saturday.' 

' Then wear the striped one, dear.' 

' I might.' 

' Or the dark one.' 

' Yes, I might ; but I want to wear a 
fresh one they haven't seen.' 


' I see, I see/ said Dick, in a voice in 
which the tones of love were decidedly in- 
convenienced by a considerable emphasis, 
his thoughts meanwhile running as follows : 
'I, the man she loves best in the world, 
as she says, am to understand that my 
poor half-holiday is to be lost, because she 
wants to wear on Sunday a dress there is 
not the slightest necessity for wearing, 
simply, in fact, to appear more striking than 
usual in the eyes of Yalbury young men ; 
and I not there, either/ 

' Then there are three dresses good 
enough for my eyes, but neither is good 
enough for the youth of Yalbury,' he said. 

^ No, not that exactly, Dick. Still, you 
see, I do want — to look pretty to them — 
there, that's honest. But I shan't be much 

'How much?' 

' A quarter of an hour.' 

^ Very well ; I'll come in in a quarter of 
an hour.' 

^ Why go away?* 

* I may as well' 


He went out, walked down the road, 
and sat upon a gate. Here he meditated 
and meditated, and the more he meditated 
the more decidedly did he begin to fume, 
and the more positive was he that his time 
had been scandalously trifled with by Miss 
Fancy Day — that, so far from being the 
simple girl who had never had a sweetheart 
before, as she had solemnly assured him 
time after time, she was, if not a flirt, a 
woman who had had no end of admirers; 
a girl most certainly too anxious about her 
dresses ; a girl whose feelings, though warm, 
were not deep; a girl who cared a great 
deal too much how she appeared in the 
eyes of other men. ' What she loves best in 
the world,* he thought, with an incipient 
spice of his father's grimness, ' are her hair 
and complexion. What she loves next 
best, her dresses ; what she loves next best, 
myself, perhaps.' 

Suffering great anguish at this dis- 
loyalty in himself, and harshness to his 
darling, yet disposed to persevere in it, a 
horribly cruel thought crossed his mind. 


He would not call for her, as lie had pro- 
mised, at the end of a quarter of an hour ! 
Yes, it would be a punishment she well 
deserved ! Although the best part of the 
afternoon had been wasted, he would go 
nutting as he had intended, and go by 

He leaped over the gate, and pushed 
along the path for nearly two miles, till it 
sloped up a hill, and entered a hazel copse 
by a hole like a rabbit's burrow. In he 
plunged, vanished among the bushes, and 
in a short time there was no sign of his 
existence upon earth, save an occasional 
rustling of boughs and snapping of twigs in 
divers points of the wood. 

Never man nutted as Dick nutted that 
day. He worked like a galley slave. Hour 
after hour passed away, and still he ga- 
thered without ceasing. At last, when the 
sun had set, and bunches of nuts could not 
be distinguished from the leaves which 
nourished them, he shouldered his bag, con- 
taining about two pecks of the finest pro- 
liuce of the wood, and which were about as 


much use to him as two pecks of stones 
from the road, and strolled along a bridle- 
path leading into open ground, whistling as 
he went. 

Probably, Miss Fancy Day never before 
or after stood so low in Mr. Dewy's opinion 
as on that afternoon. In fact, it is just 
possible that a few more blue dresses on 
the Yalbury young men's account would 
have clarified Dick's brain entirely, and 
made him once more a free man. 

But Venus had planned other develop- 
ments, at any rate for the present. The 
path he pursued passed over a ridge which 
rose keenly against the western sky, about 
fifty yards in his van. Here, upon the 
bright after-glow about the horizon, was 
now visible an irregular outline, which at 
first he conceived to be a bush standing 
a little beyond the line of its neighbours. 
Then it seemed to move, and as he ad- 
vanced still farther, there was no doubt that 
it was a living being of some species or 
other. The grassy path entirely prevented 
his footsteps from being heard, and it was 


not till he was close, that the fiofure recog:- 
nised him. Up it sprang, and he was face 
to face with Fancy. 

^Dick, Dick! 0, is it you, Dick!' 

'Yes, Fancy,' said Dick, in a rather 
repentant tone, and lowering his nuts. 

She ran up to him, flung her parasol on 
the grass, put her little head against his 
breast, and then there began a narrative, 
disjointed by such a hysterical weeping as 
was never surpassed for intensity in the 
whole history of love. 

* Dick,* she sobbed out, ' where have 
you been away from me! 0, I have suf- 
fered agony, and thought you would never 
come any more! 'Tis cruel, Dick; no 'tisn't, 
it is justice! I've been walking miles and 
miles up and down this wood, trying to find 
you, till I was wearied and worn out, and 
I could walk no farther. Dick, directly 
you were gone, I thought I had offended 
you, and I put down the dress ; 'tisn't 
finished now, Dick, and I never will finish 
it, and I'll wear an old one Sunday I Yes, 
Dick, I will, because I don't care what I 


wear when you are not by my side — ha, 
you think I do, but I don't ! — and I ran 
after you, and I saw you go up the hill and 
not look back once, and then you pluns^ed 
in, and I after you ; but I was too far 
behind. 0, I did wish the horrid bushes 
had been cut down, so that I could see your 
dear shape again! And then I called out 
to you, and nobody answered, and I was 
afraid to call very loud, lest anybody else 
should hear me. Then I kept wandering 
and wandering about, and it was dreadful 
misery, Dick. And then I shut my eyes and 
fell to picturing you looking at some other 
woman, very pretty and nice, but with no 
affection or truth in her at all, and then 
imagined you saying to yourself, *' Ah, she's 
as good as Fancy, for Fancy told me a 
story, and was a flirt, and cared for herself 
more than me, so now I'll have this one for 
my sweetheart." 0, you won't, will you, 
Dick, for I do love you so!' 

It is scarcely necessary to add that Dick 
renounced his freedom there and then, and 
kipsed her ten times over, and promised 


that no pretty woman of tlie kind alluded 
to should ever engross his thoughts ; in 
short, that though he had been vexed with 
her, all such vexation was past, and that 
henceforth and for ever it was simply 
Fancy or death for him. And then they 
set about proceeding homewards, very 
slowly on account of Fancy's weariness, she 
leaning upon his shoulder, and in addition 
receiving support from his arm round her 
waist ; though she had sufficiently recovered 
from her desperate condition to sing to him, 
' Why are you wandering here, I pray ?' 
during the latter part of their walk. Nor 
is it necessary to describe in detail how the 
bag of nuts was quite forgotten until three 
days later, when it was found by an under- 
keeper and restored empty to Mrs. Dewy, 
her initials being marked thereon in red cot- 
ton; and how she puzzled herself till her 
head ached, upon the question of how on 
earth her meal-bag could have got into 
Mellstock copse. 




Saturday evening saw Dick Dewy jour- 
neying on foot to Yalbury Wood, according 
to the arrangement with Fancy. 

The landscape was concave, and at the 
going down of the sun everything suddenly 
assumed a uniform robe of shade. The even- 
ino^ advanced from sunset to dusk lono^ be- 
fore Dick's arrival, and his progress during 
the latter portion of his walk through the 
trees was indicated by the flutter of terrified 
birds that had been roosting over the path. 
And in crossing the glades, masses of hot 
dry air, that had been formed on the hills 
during the day, gi^eeted his cheeks alter- 
nately with clouds of damp night air from 
the valleys. He reached the keeper's house, 
where the grass-plot and the garden in 
front appeared light and pale against the 
unbroken darkness of the grove from which 
he had emerged, and paused at the garden 


He had scarcely been there a minute 
when he beheld a sort of procession advanc- 
ing from the door in his front. It consisted 
first of Enoch the trapper, carrying a spade 
on his shoulder and a lantern dangling in his 
hand ; then came Mrs. Day, the light of the 
lantern revealing that she bore in her arms 
curious objects about a foot long, in the form 
of Latin crosses (made of lath and brown 
paper dipped in brimstone, — called matches 
by bee-fanciers) ; next came Miss Day, with 
a shawl thrown over her head ; and behind 
all, in the gloom, Mr. Frederic Shinar. 

Dick, in his consternation at finding 
Shinar present, was at a loss how to pro- 
ceed, and retired under a tree to collect his 

' Here I be, Enoch,' said a voice ; and the 
procession advancing farther, the lantern's 
rays illuminated the figure of Geofirey, 
awaiting their arrival beside a row of bee- 
hives, in front of the path. Taking the spade 
from Enoch, he proceeded to dig two holes 
in the earth beside the hives, the others 
standing round in a circle, except Mrs. Day, 


who deposited her matches in the fork of an 
apple-tree and returned to the house. The 
party remaining were now lit up in front by 
the lantern in their midst, their shadows ra- 
diating each way upon the garden-plot like 
the spokes of a wheel. An apparent embar- 
rassment of Fancy at the presence of Shinar 
caused a silence in the assembly, during 
which the preliminaries of execution were 
arranged, the matches fixed, the stake kin- 
dled, the two hives placed over the two holes, 
and the earth stopped round the edges. 
Geoffrey then stood erect, and rather more, 
to straighten his backbone after the dig- 

' They were a peculiar family,' said Mr. 

Shinar, regarding the hives reflectively. 

Geoffrey nodded. 

* Those holes will be the grave of thou- 
sands!' said Fancy. ^I think 'tis rather a 
cruel thing to do.' 

Her father shook his head. ^ No,* he said, 
tapping the hives to shake the dead bees 
from their cells, ^ if you suffocate 'em this 
way, they only die once : if you fumigate 'em 


in the new way, they come to life again, and 
BO the pangs o' death be twice upon em/ 

'I incline to Fancy's notion/ said Mr. 
Shinar, laughing lightly. 

* The proper way to take honey, so that 
the bees be neither starved nor murdered, 
is not so much an amusing as a puzzling 
matter,' said the keeper steadily. 

^ I should like never to take it from them,' 
said Fancy. 

'But 'tis the money,' said Enoch mus- 
ingly. * For without money man is a shad- 

The lantern-light had disturbed several 
bees that had escaped from hives destroyed 
some days earlier, and who were now getting 
a living as marauders about the doors of 
other hives. Several flew round the head and 
neck of Geoffrey; then darted upon him 
with an irritated bizz. 

Enoch threw down the lantern, and ran 
off and pushed his head into a currant bush; 
Fancy scudded up the path; and Mr. Shinar 
floundered away helter-skelter among the 
cabbages. Geoffrey stood his ground un- 


moved, and firm as a rock. Fancy was the 
first to return, followed by Enoch picking 
up the lantern. Mr. Shinar still remained 

' Have the craters stung ye?' said Enoch 
to Geofirey. 

* No, not much — only a little here and 
there,* he said with leisurely solemnity, 
shaking one bee out of his shirt sleeve, pull- 
ing another from among his hair, and two 
or three more from his neck. The others 
looked on during this proceeding with a 
complacent sense of being out of it, — much 
as a European nation in a state of internal 
commotion is watched by its neighbours. 

'Are those all of them, father?' said 
Fancy, when Geoffrey had pulled away 

' Almost all, — though I feel a few more 
sticking into my shoulder and side. Ah! 
there's another just begun again upon my 
backbone. You lively young martels, how 
did you get inside there? However, they 
can't sting me many times more, poor 
things, for tbey must be getting weak. They 


may as well stay in me till bedtime now, I 

As he himself was the only person af- 
fected by this arrangement, it seemed satis- 
factory enough; and after a noise of feet 
kicking against cabbages in a blundering 
progress among them, the voice of Mr. Shinar 
was heard from the darkness in that direc- 

* Is all quite safe again ?^ 

No answer being returned to this query, 
he apparently assumed that he might ven- 
ture forth, and gradually drew near the 
lantern again. The hives were now removed 
from their position over the holes, one being 
handed to Enoch to carry indoors, and one 
being taken by Geoffrey himself. 

* Bring hither the lantern. Fancy: the 
spade can bide.' 

Geoffrey and Enoch then went towards 
the house, leaving Shinar and Fancy stand- 
ing side by side on the garden-plot. 

'Allow me,' said Shinar, stooping for the 
lantern and seizing it at the same time with 


'I can carry it/ said Fancy, religiously 
repressing all inclination to trifle. She had 
thoroughly considered that subject after the 
tearful explanation of the bird-catching ad- 
venture to Dick, and had decided that it 
would be dishonest in her, as an engaged 
young woman, to trifle with men's eyes and 
hands any more. Finding that Shinar still 
retained his hold of the lantern, she relin- 
quished it, and he, having found her retain- 
ing it, also let go. The lantern fell, and was 
extinguished. Fancy moved on. 

* Where is the path ?' said Mr. Shinar. 

'Here,' said Fancy. 'Your eyes will 
get used to the dark in a minute or two.' 

' Till that time will ye lend me your 

Fancy gave him the extreme tips of her 
fingers, and they stepped from the plot into 
the path. 

*You don't accept attentions very 

' It depends upon who offers them/ 

' A fellow like me, for instance/ 

A dead silence, 


* Well, what do you say, Missie ? 

^It then depends upon how they are 

' Not wildly, and yet not indifferently ; 
not intentionally, and yet not by chance; 
not actively nor idly ; quickly nor slowly/ 

' How then ?' said Fancy. 

' Coolly and practically,' he said. ' How 
would that kind of love be taken?' 

' Not anxiously, and yet not carelessly ; 
neither quickly nor slowly; neither redly 
nor palely; not religiously nor yet quite 

* Well, how?' 

Geoffrey Day's storehouse at the back of 
his dwelling was hung with bunches of dried 
horehound, mint, and sage; brown-paper 
bags of thyme and lavender; and long ropes 
of clean onions. On shelves were spread 
large red and yellow apples, and choice selec- 
tions of early potatoes for seed next year; — 
vulgar crowds of commoner kind lying be- 
neath in heaps. A few empty beehives wer© 


clustered around a nail in one corner, under 
which stood two or three barrels of new cider 
of the first crop, each bubbling and squirt- 
ing forth from the yet open bunghole. 

Fancy was now kneeHng beside the two 
inverted hives, one of which rested against 
her lap, for convenience in operating upon 
the contents. She thrust her sleeves above 
her elbows, and inserted her small pink hand 
edgewise between each white lobe of honey- 
comb, performing the act so adroitly and 
gently as not to unseal a single cell. Then 
cracking the piece off at the crown of the 
hive by a slight backward and forward 
movement, she lifted each portion as it was 
loosened into a large blue platter, placed on 
a bench at her side. 

' Bother them little martels !' said Geof- 
frey, who was holding the light to her, and 
giving his back an uneasy twist. ^ I really 
think I may so well go indoors and take 
*em out, poor things ! for they won't let me 
alone. There's two a-stinging wi' all their 
might now. I'm sure I wonder their strength 
can last so long.' 


'AH right, friend; I'll hold the candle 
whilst you are gone,* said Mr. Shinar, lei- 
surely taking the light, and allowing Geof- 
frey to depart, which he did with his usual 
long paces. 

He could hardly have gone round to 
the cottage-door when other footsteps were 
heard approaching the outhouse ; the tip of 
a finger appeared in the hole through which 
the wood latch was lifted, and Dick Dewy 
came in, having been all this time walking 
up and down the wood, vainly waiting for 
Shinar's departure. 

Fancy looked up and welcomed him 
rather confusedly. Shinar grasped the can- 
dlestick more firmly, and, lest doing this in 
silence should not imply to Dick with suffi- 
cient force that he was quite at home and 
cool, he sang invincibly, 

' " King Arthur he had three sons.*** 

* Father here ? said Dick. 

* Indoors, I think,* said Fancy, looking 
pleasantly at him. 

Dick surveyed the scene, and did not 


seem inclined to hurry off just at that mo- 
ment. Shinar went on singing, 

* " The miller was drown'd in his pond, 
The weaver was hung in his yarn, 
And the d — ran away with the little tailor, 
With the broadcloth under his arm.'" 

* That's a terrible crippled rhyme, if 
that's your rhyme !' said Dick, with a grain 
of superciliousness in his tone, and elevating 
his nose an inch or thereabout. 

'It's no use your complaining to me 
about the rhyme!' said Mr. Shinar. 'You 
must go to the man that made it.' 

Fancy by this time had acquired confi- 

' Taste a bit, Mr. De^vy,' she said, hold- 
ing up to him a small circular piece of 
honeycomb that had been the last in the 
row of lobes, and remaining still on her 
knees, and flino^ino^ back her head to look in 
his face ; ' and then I'll taste a bit too.' 

' And I, if you please,' said Mr. Shinar. 
Nevertheless the farmer looked superior, 
as if he could even now hardly join the 
trifling from very importance of station; and 


after receiving the honeycomb from Fancy, 
he turned it over in his hand till the cells 
began to be crushed, and the liquid honey 
ran down from his fingers in a thin string. 

Suddenly a faint cry from Fancy caused 
them to gaze at her. 

'What's the matter, dear?' said Dick. 

' It is nothing, but O-o ! a bee has stung 
the inside of my lip ! He was in one of the 
cells I was eating!' 

'We must keep down the swelling, or 
it may be serious !' said Shinar, stepping up 
and kneeling beside her. ' Let me see it.' 

'No, no!' 

' Just let me see it,' said Dick, kneeling 
on the other side ; and after some hesitation 
she pressed down her lip mth one finger to 
show the place. 'I hope 'twill soon be 
better. I don't mind a sting in ordinary 
places, but it is so bad upon your lip,' she 
added with tears in her eyes, and ^\T:ithing 
a little from the pain. 

Shinar held the light above his head 
and pushed his face close to Fancy's, as if 
the lip had been shown exclusively to him- 


self, upon which Dick pushed closer, as if 
Shinar were not there at all. 

* It is swelling,' said Dick to her right 

*It isn't swelling,' said Shinar to her 
left aspect. 

' Is it dangerous on the lip ?' cried Fancy. 
' I know it is dangerous on the tongue.' 

'0 no, not dangerous!' answered Dick. 

* Rather dangerous,' had answered Shi- 
nar simultaneously. 

'It doesn't hurt me so much now,' said 
Fancy, turning again to the hives. 

* Hartshorn and oil is a g-ood thino: to 
put to it. Miss Day,' said Shinar with great 

* Sweet oil and hartshorn I've found to 
be a good thing to cure stings. Miss Day,' 
said Dick with greater concern. 

'We have some mixed indoors; would 
you kindly run and get it for me ?' she said. 

Now, whether by inadvertence, or whe- 
ther by mischievous intention, the individa- 
ality of the you was so carelessly denoted 
that both Dick and Shinar sprang to their 


feet like twin acrobats, and marched abreast 
to the door ; both seized the latch and lifted 
it, and continued marching on, shoulder to 
shoulder, in the same manner to the dwell- 
ing-house. Not only so, but entering the 
room, they marched as before straight up to 
Mrs. Day's chair, letting the door in the old 
oak partition slam so forcibly, that the rows 
of pewter on the dresser rang like a bell. 

'Mrs. Day, Fancy has stung her lip, 
and wants you to give me the hartshorn, 
please,' said Mr. Shinar, very close to Mrs. 
Day's face. 

' 0, Mrs. Day, Fancy has asked me to 
bring out the hartshorn, please, because she 
has stung her lip !' said Dick, a little closer 
to Mrs. Day's face. 

'Well, men alive! that's no reason 
why you should eat me, I suppose!' said 
Mrs. Day, drawing back. 

She searched in the comer-cupboard, 
produced the bottle, and began to dust the 
cork, the rim, and every other part very 
carefully, Dick's hand and Shinar's hand 
waiting side by side. 


'Which is head man?' said Mrs. Day. 
* Now, don't come mumbudgeting so close 
again. Which is head man ?' 

Neither spoke; and the bottle was in- 
clined towards Shinar. Shinar, as a high- 
class man, would not look in the least tri- 
umphant, and turned to go off with it as 
Geoffrey came downstairs after the search 
in his linen for concealed bees. 

'0— that you. Master De^vy? 

Dick assured the keeper that it was; 
and the young man then determined upon a 
bold stroke for the attainment of his end, 
forgetting that the worst of bold strokes is 
the disastrous consequences they involve if 
they fail. 

' I've come o' purpose to speak to you 
very particularly, Mr. Day,' he said, with a 
crushing emphasis intended for the ears of 
Mr. Shinar, who was vanishing round the 
door-post at that moment. 

* Well, I've been forced to go upstairs 
and unrind myself, and shake some bees 
out o' me,' said Geoffrey, walking slowly 
towards the open door, and standing oa 


the threshold. 'The young rascals got 
into my shirt and wouldn't be quiet no- 

Dick followed him to the door. 

' I've come to speak a word to you,' he 
repeated, looking out at the pale mist 
creeping up from the gloom of the valley. 
' You may perhaps guess what it is about.' 

The keeper lowered his hands into the 
extreme depths of his pockets, twirled his 
eyes, balanced himself on his toes, looked 
perpendicularly downward as if his glance 
were a plumb-line, then scrupulously hori- 
zontal, gradually collecting together the 
cracks that lay about his face till they were 
all in the neighbourhood of his eyes. 

' Maybe I don t know,' he replied. 

Dick said nothing ; and the stillness was 
disturbed only by some small bird that 
was being killed by an owl in the adjoining 
copse, whose cry passed into the silence 
without mingling with it. 

' I've left my hat in the chammer/ said 
Geoffi-ey; 'wait while I step up and gej 


* I'll be in the garden,' said Dick. 

He went round by a side wicket into 
the garden, and Geoffrey went upstairs. It 
was the custom in Mellstock and its vicinity 
to discuss matters of pleasure and ordinary 
business inside the house, and to reserve 
the garden for very important affairs: a 
custom which, as is supposed, originated 
in the desirability of getting away at such 
times from the other members of the fa- 
mily, when there was only one room for 
living in, though it was now quite as fre- 
quently practised by those who suffered 
from no such limitation to the size of their 

The keeper's form appeared in the dusky 
garden, and Dick walked towards him. The 
keeper paused, turned, and leant over the 
rail of a piggery that stood on the left of 
the path, upon which Dick did the same; 
and they both contemplated a Avhitish sha- 
dowy form that was moving about and 
grunting among the straw of the interior. 

* IVe come to ask for Fancy,' said Dick. 

* I'd as lief you hadn't.' 


'Why should that be, Mr. Day?' 
'Because it makes me say that youVe 
come to ask for what ye be'n't likely to 
have. Have ye come for anything else?* 

* Then I'll just tell ye youVe come on a 
very foolish errand. D'ye know what her 
mother was?* 


* A governess in a county family, who 
was foolish enough to marry the keeper of 
the same establishment. D'ye think Fancy 
picked up her good manners, the smooth 
turn of her tongue, her musical skill, and 
her knowledge of books, in a homely hole 
like this?' 


' D'ye know where?' 


' Well, when I went a- wandering after 
her mother's death, she lived with her aunt, 
who kept a boarding-school, till her aunt 
married Lawyer Green — a man as sharp as 
a needle — and the school was broken up. 
Did ye know that then she went to the 


training-school, and that her name stood 
first among the Queen's scholars of her 

^ I've heard so.' 

^ And that when she sat for her certifi- 
cate as Government teacher, she had the 
highest of the first class ?' 


' Well, and do ye know what I live in 
such a miserly way for when I've got 
enough to do without it, and why I make 
her work as a schoolmistress instead of liv- 
ing here?* 


* That if any gentleman, who sees her to 
be his equal in polish, should want to marry 
her, and she want to marry him, he sha'n't 
be superior to her in pocket. Now do ye 
think after this that you be good enough 
for her?' 

' No; 

' Then good-night t'ye. Master Dewy.' 
' Good-night, Mr. Day.' 
Modest Dick's reply had faltered upon 
his tongue, and he turned away wondering 


at his presumption in asking for a woman 
whom he had seen from the beginning to 
be so superior to him. 



The next scene is a tempestuous after- 
noon in the following month, and Fancy 
Day is discovered walking from her father's 
home towards Mellstock. 

A single vast gray cloud covered all 
the country, from which the small rain 
and mist had just begun to blow down in 
wavy sheets, alternately thick and thin. 
The trees of the old brown plantation 
writhed like miserable men as the air 
wended its way swiftly among them; the 
lowest portions of their trunks, that had 
hardly ever been known to move, were 
visibly rocked by the fiercer gusts, dis- 
tressing the mind by its painful unwonted- 
ness, as when a strong man is seen to shed 


tears. Low-hanging boughs went up and 
down ; high and erect boughs went to 
and fro ; the blasts being so irregular, and 
divided into so many cross-currents, that 
neighbouring branches of the same tree 
swept the skies in independent motions, 
crossed each other, passed, or became en- 
tangled. Across the open spaces flew flocks 
of green and yellowish leaves, which, after 
travelling a long distance from their pa- 
rent trees, reached the ground, and lay 
there with their under-sides upward. 

As the rain and wind increased, and 
Fancy's bonnet -ribbons leapt more and 
more snappishly against her chin, she 
paused to consider her latitude, and the 
distance to a place of shelter. The nearest 
house was Elizabeth Endorfield's, whose 
cottage and garden stood at the junction 
of the lane with the high road. Fancy 
hastened onward, and in five minutes en- 
tered a gate, which shed upon her toes a 
flood of water-drops as she opened it. 

^ Come in, chiel!' a voice exclaimed, be- 
fore Fancy had knocked: a promptness 


that would have surprised her, had she 
not known that Mrs. Endorfield was an 
exceedingly and exceptionally sharp wo- 
man in the use of her eyes and ears. 

Fancy went in and sat down. Eliza- 
beth was paring potatoes for her husband's 

Scrape, scrape, scrape ; then a toss, and 
splash went a potato into a bucket of 

Now, as Fancy listlessly noted these 
proceedings of the dame, she began to re- 
consider an old subject that lay uppermost 
in her heart. Since the interview between 
her father and Dick, the days had been 
melancholy days for her. Geoffrey's firm 
opposition to the notion of Dick as a son- 
in-law was more than she had expected. 
She had frequently seen her lover since 
that time, it is true, and had loved him more 
for the opposition than she would have 
otherwise dreamt of doing — which was a 
happiness of a certain kind. Yet, though 
love is thus an end in itself, it must be 
believed to be the means to another end if 


it is to assume the rosy hues of an unal- 
loyed pleasure. And such a belief Fancy and 
Dick were emphatically denied just row. 

Elizabeth Endorfield had a repute among 
women which was in its nature something 
between distinction and notoriety. It was 
founded on the following items of character. 
She was shrewd and penetrating ; her house 
stood in a lonely place ; she never went to 
church ; she always retained her bonnet in- 
doors; and she had a pointed chin. Thus 
far her attributes were distinctly Satanic; 
and those who looked no further called her, 
in plain terms, a witch. But she was not 
gaunt, nor ugly in the upper part of her 
face, nor particularly strange in manner; 
so that, when her more intimate acquaint- 
ances spoke of her, the term was softened, 
and she became simply a Deep Body, who 
was as long-headed as she was high. It 
may be stated that Elizabeth belonged to a 
class of people who were gradually losing 
their mysterious characteristics under the 
administration of the young vicar ; though, 
during the long reign of Mr. Grinham, the 


parish of Mellstock had proved extremely 
favourable to the growth of witches. 

While Fancy was revolving all this in 
her mind, and putting it to herself whe- 
ther it was worth while to tell her troubles 
to Elizabeth, and ask her advice in getting 
out of them, the witch spoke. 

' You are down — proper down/ she said 
suddenly, dropping another potato into the 

Fancy took no notice. 

' About your young man.' 

Fancy reddened. Elizabeth seemed to be 
watching her thoughts. Really, one would 
almost think she must have the powers 
people ascribed to her. 

^Father not in the humour for't, hey?' 
Another potato was finished and flung in. 
' Ah, I know about it. Little birds tell me 
things that people don't dream of my know- 

Fancy was desperate about Dick, and 
here was a chance — 0, such a wicked 
chance! — of getting help; but what was 
goodness beside love ! 


' I wish you'd tell me how to put him 
in the humour for it?^ she said. 

* That I could soon do,' said the witch 

'Really? 0, do; anyhow — I don't care 
— so that it is done! How could I do it, 
Mrs. Endorfield?' 

' Nothing so mighty wonderful in it.' 

'WvU, buthow? 

*By witchery, of course!' said Eliza- 

'No!' said Fancy. 

* Tis, I assure ye. Didn t you ever hear 
I was a witch?' 

* Well,' said Fancy hesitatingly, ' I have 
heard you called so.' 

'And you believed it?' 

' I can't say that I did exactly believe 
it, for 'tis very horrible and wicked; but, 
0, how I do wish it was possible for you 
to be one !' 

' So I am. And I'll tell ye how to be- 
witch your father, to let you marry Dick 

* Will it hurt him, pogr thing f 


* Hurt who? 

* Father.' 

* No ; the charm is worked by common 
sense, and the spell can only be broke by 
your acting stupidly/ 

Fancy looked rather perplexed, and Eliza- 
beth went on : 

* This fear of Lizz — whatever 'tis — 
By great and small ; 
She makes pretence to common sense, 
And that's alL 

You must do it like this.' The witch 
laid down her knife and potato, and then 
poured into Fancy's ear a long and de- 
tailed Hst of directions, glancing up from 
the corner of her eye into Fancy's face 
with an expression of sinister humour. 
Fancy's face brightened, clouded, rose and 
sank, as the narrative proceeded. * There,' 
said Elizabeth at length, stoo})ing for the 
knife and another potato, ' do that, and 
you'll have him by-long and by-late, my 

* And do it I v/ili !' said Fancy. 

She then turned her atteation to the 


external world once more. The rain con- 
tinued as usual, but the wind had abated 
considerably during the discourse. Judg- 
ing that it was now possible to keep an 
umbrella erect, she pulled her hood again 
over her bonnet, bade the witch goad-bye, 
and went her way. 



Mrs. Endorfield's advice was duly fol- 

* I be proper sorry that your daughter 
isn't so well as she might be,' said a M ell- 
stock man to Geoffrey one morning. 

' But is there anything in it ?' said Geof- 
frey uneasily. He shifted his hat slightly 
to the right. ' I can't understand the re- 
port. She didn't complain to me at all, 
when I seed her.* 

' No appetite at all, they say.' 

Geoffrey called at the school that after- 


noon. Fancy welcomed him as usual, and 
asked him to stay and take tea with her. 

^ I be'n't much for tea, this time o' day/ 
he said, but stayed. 

Durinix the meal he watched her nar- 
rowly. And to his great consternation 
discovered the following unprecedented 
change in the healthy girl — that she cut 
herself only a diaphanous slice of bread- 
and-butter, and laying it on her plate, 
passed the meal in breaking it into pieces, 
but eating no more than about one-tenth 
of the slice. Geoffrey hoped she would say 
something about Dick, and finish up by 
weeping, as she had done after the decision 
against him a few days subsequent to the 
interview in the garden. But nothing was 
said, and in due time Geoffrey departed 
again for Yalbury Wood. 

* Tis to be hoped poor Miss Fancy will 
be able to keep on her school,' said Geof- 
frey's man Enoch to Geoffrey the following 
week, as they were shovelling up ant-hills in 
the wood. 

Geoffrey stuck in the shovel, swept seven 


Or eight ants from his sleeve, and killed 
another that was prowling round his ear, 
then looked perpendicularly into the earth, 
waiting for Enoch to say more. 'Well, 
why shouldn't she ?' said the keeper at last. 

'The baker told me yesterday,^ con- 
tinued Enoch, shaking out another emmet 
that had run merrily up his thigh, ' that the 
bread he've left at that there school-house 
this last month would starve any mouse in 
the three creations; that 'twould so. And 
afterwards I had a pint o' small at the Old 
Souls, and there I heard more.' 

'What might that ha' been?' 

' That she used to have half a pound o' 
the best rolled butter a week, regular as 
clockwork, from Dairyman Quenton's; but 
now the same quantity d'last her three 
weeks, and then 'tis thoughted she throws it 
away sour.' 

' Finish doing the emmets, and carry 
the bag home-along.' The keeper resumed 
his gun, tucked it under his arm, and went 
on without whistling to the dogs, who 
however followed, with a bearing meant 


to imply that they did not expect any 
such attentions when their master was re- 

On Saturday morning a note came from 
Fancy. He was not to trouble about send- 
ing her the couple of early young rabbits, 
as was intended, because she feared she 
should not want them. Later in the day, 
Geoffrey went to Casterbridge, and called 
upon the butcher who served Fancy with 
fresh meat, which was put down to her 
father's account. 

'IVe called to pay up our little bill, 
naibour Sabley, and you can gie me the 
chiel's account at the same time/ 

Mr. Sabley turned round three quarters 
of a circle in the midst of a heap of joints, 
altered the expression of his face from meat 
to money, went into a little office consisting 
only of a door and a window, looked very 
vigorously into a book which possessed 
length but no breadth; and then, seizing a 
piece of paper and scribbling thereupon, 
handed the bill. 

Probably it was the first time in the 


history of commercial transactions that the 
quality of shortness in a butcher's bill was 
a cause of tribulation to the debtor. 'Why, 
this isn't all she've had in a whole month !' 
said Geoffrey. 

* Every mossel,' said the butcher — 
* (now, Dan, take that leg and shoulder to 
Mrs. White's, and this eleven pound here 
to Mr. Martins) — you've been trating her 
to smaller joints lately, to my thinking, Mr. 

' Only two or three little scram rabbits 
this last week, as I be alive — I wish I had.* 

'Well, my wife said to me — (Dan! not 
too much, not too much at a time; better 
go twice) — my wife said to me as she posted 
up the books : " Sabley," she ses, "Miss Day 
must have been affronted this summer dur- 
ing that hot muggy weather that spoilt so 
much for us; for depend upon't," she ses, 
" she've been trying Joe Grimmett unknown 
to us : see her account else." 'Tis little, of 
course, at the best of times, being only for 
one, but now 'tis next kin to nothing.' 

' I'll inquire,' said Geoffrey deapondingly 


He returned by way of Mellstock, and 
called upon Fancy, in fulfilment of a pro- 
mise. It being Saturday, the cbildren were 
enjoying a holiday, and on entering the 
residence Fancy was nowhere to be seen. 
Nan, the charwoman, was sweeping the 

' Where's my da'ter ?' said the keeper. 

'Well, you see she was tired with the 
week's work, and this morning she said, 
"Nan, I sha'n't get up till the evening." 
You see, Mr. Day, if people don't eat, they 
can't work; and as she've gie'd up eating, 
she must gie up working.* 

'Have ye carried up any dinner to 

' No ; she don't want any. There, we all 
know that such things don't come without 
good reason — not that I wish to say any- 
thing about a broken heart, or anything of 
the kind.* 

Geoflfrey's own heart felt inconveniently 
large just then. He went to the staircase 
and ascended to his daughter's door. 



' Come in, father/ 

To see a person in bed from any cause 
whatever, on a fine afternoon, is depressing 
enough ; and here was his only child Fancy, 
not only in bed, but looking very pale. 
Geoffrey was visibly disturbed. 

' Fancy, I didn't expect to see thee here, 
chiel,' he said. * What's the matter ?' 

' I'm not well, father.' 

'How's that?' 

' Because I think of things.' 

' What things can you have to think o' 
80 martel much?' 

' You know, father.' 

* You think I've been cruel to thee in 
saying that that penniless Dick o' thine 
sha'n't marry thee, I suppose?' 

No answer. 

' Well, you know, Fancy, I do it for the 
best, and he isn't good enough for thee. 
You know that well enough.' Here he 
again looked at her as she lay. 'Well, 
Fancy, I can't let my only chiel die ; and if 
you can't live without en, you must ha' en, 
I suppose/ 


'0, I don't want him like that; all 
against your will, and everything so dis- 
obedient!' sighed the invalid. 

'No, no, 'tisn't against my will. My 
♦ash is, now I d'see how 'tis hurten thee to 
live without en, that he shall marry thee as 
soon as we've considered a little. That's 
my wish flat and plain, Fancy. There, 
never cry, my little maid ! You ought to ha' 
cried afore; no need o' crying now 'tis all 
over. Well, howsoever, try to stap over 
and see me and mother-law to-morrow, and 
ha' a bit of dinner wi' us.* 

'And— Dick too? 

' Ay, Dick too, 'far's I know.* 

*And when do you think you'll have 
considered, father, and he may marry me ?' 
she coaxed. 

* Well, there, say next Midsummer ; that's 
not a day too long to wait.' 

On leaving the school, Geoffrey went to 
the tranter's. Old William opened the 

*Is your grandson Dick in 'ithin, Wil« 
liaia ?* 


* No, not just now, Geoffrey. Though 
he've been at home a good deal lately.' 

*0, how's that? 

'What wi* one thing, and what wi' 
'tother, he's all in a mope, as m't be said. 
Don't seem the feller 'a used to. Ay, 'a 
will sit studding and thinking as if 'a were 
going to turn chapel-member, and then 'a 
don't do nothing but traypsing and wamb- 
ling about. Used to be such a chatty feller, 
too, Dick did; and now 'a don't spak at 
all. But won't ye stap inside? Reuben 
will be home soon, 'a b'lieve.' 

' No, thank you, I can't stay now. Will 
ye just ask Dick if he'll do me the kindness 
to stap over to Yalbury to-morrow with 
my da'ter Fancy, if she's well enough? I 
don't like her to come by herself, now she's 
not so terrible topping in health.' 

'So I've heard. Ay, sure, 111 tell'n 
without fail* 




The visit to Geoffrey passed off as de- 
lightfully as a visit might have been ex- 
pected to pass off when it was the first day of 
smooth experience in a hitherto obstructed 
love-course. And then came a series of 
several happy days, of the same undisturbed 
serenity. Dick could court her when he 
chose; stay away when he chose, — which 
was never ; walk with her by winding 
streams and waterfalls and autumn scenery 
till dews and twilight sent them home. 
And thus they drew near the day of the 
Harvest Thanksgiving, which was also the 
time chosen for opening the organ in Mell- 
stock Church. 

It chanced that Dick on that very day 
was called away from Mellstock. A young 
acquaintance had died of consumption at 
Stoneley, a neighbouring village, on the 
previous Monday, and Dick, in fulfilment of 
a long-standing promise, was to assist in 


carryino; him to the grave. When, on Tues- 
day, Dick went towards the school to ac- 
quaint Fancy of the fact, it is difficult to say 
whether his own disappointment, at being 
denied the sight of her triumphant debut as 
organist, was greater than his vexation that 
his pet should on this great occasion be 
deprived of the pleasure of his presence. 
However, the intelligence was communi- 
cated. She bore it as she best could, not 
without many expressions of regret, and 
convictions that her performance would be 
nothing to her now. 

Just before eleven o*clock on Sunday he 
set out upon his sad errand. The funeral 
was to be immediately after the morning 
service, and as there were four good miles to 
walk, it became necessary to start compara- 
tively early. Half an hour later would cer- 
tainly have answered his purpose quite as 
well, yet nothing would content his ardent 
mind but that he must go a mile out of his 
way, in the direction of the school, in the 
hope of getting a glimpse of his Love as she 
started for church. 


Striking into the path between the 
church and the school, he proceeded to- 
wards the latter spot, and arrived opposite 
her door as his goddess emerged. 

If ever a woman looked a divinity, Fancy 
Day appsared one that morning as she 
floated down those school steps, in the form 
of a nebulous collection of colours inclining 
to blue. With an audacity unparalleled in 
the whole history of schoolmistresses — 
partly owing, no doubt, to papa's respectable 
accumulation of cash, which rendered her 
profession not altogether one of necessity — 
she had actually donned a hat and feather, 
and lowered her hitherto plainly looped-up 
hair, which now fell about her shoulders in 
a profusion of curls. Poor Dick was aston- 
ished: he had never seen her look so dis- 
tractingly beautiful before, save on Christ- 
mas-eve, when her hair was in the same 
luxuriant condition of freedom. But his 
first burst of delighted surprise was fol- 
lowed by less comfortable feelings, as soon 
as his brain recovered its power to think. 

Fancy had blushed; — was it with con- 


fusion? She had also hi voluntarily pressed 
back her curls. She had not expected 

' Fancy, you didn't know me for a mo- 
ment in my funeral clothes, did you?' 

' Good-morning, Dick — no, really I didn't 
recognise you for an instant/ 

He looked again at the gay tresses and 
hat. ' You've never dressed so charmingly 
before, dearest.' 

'I like to hear you praise me in that 
way, Dick,* she said, smiling archly. ' It is 
meat and drink to a woman. Do I look 
nice really?* 

'Fancy, — fie! you know it. Did you 
remember, — I mean didn't you remember 
about my going away to-day ?' 

* Well, yes, I did, Dick ; but, you know, 
I wanted to look well ; — forgive me.' 

'Yes, darling; yes, of course, — there's 
nothing to forgive. No, I was only think- 
ing that when we talked on Tuesday and 
Wednesday and Thursday and Friday about 
my absence to-day, and I regretted it so, 
you said, Fancy, so did you regret it, and 


almost cried, and said it would be no plea- 
sure to you to be the attraction of the 
church to-day, since I could not be there.' 

* My dear one, neither will it be so much 

pleasure to me But I do take a little 

delight in my life, I suppose,' she pouted. 

* Apart from mine?' 

She looked at him with perplexed eyes. 
' I know you are vexed -with me, Dick, and 
it is because the first Sunday I have curls 
and a hat and feather since I have been 
here happens to be the very day you are 
away and won't be with me. Yes, say it is, 
for that is it 1 And you think that all this 
week I ought to have remembered you 
wouldn't be here, and not have cared to be 
better dressed than usual. Yes, you do, 
Dick, and it is rather unkind V 

'No, no,' said Dick earnestly and simply, 
* I didn't think so badly of you as that. I 
only thought that, if you had been going 
away, I shouldn't have adopted new attrac- 
tions for the eyes of other people. But then 
of course you and I are different naturally. 

* Well, perhaps we are/ 


' Whatever will the vicar say, Fancy ?' 

* I don't fear what he says in the least I* 
she answered proudly. * But he won't say 
anything of the sort you think. No, no.' 

'He can hardly have conscience to, in- 

'Now come, you say, Dick, that you 
quite forgive me, for I must go,' she said 
with sudden gaiety, and skipped backwards 
into the porch. ' Come here, sir ; — say you 
forgive me, and then you shall kiss me; — 
you never have yet when I have worn curls, 
you know. Yes, in the very middle of my 
mouth, where you want to so much, — yes, 
you may.' 

Dick followed her into the inner corner, 
where he was not slow in availing himself 
of the privilege offered. 

' Now that's a treat for you, isn't it?' she 
continued. ' Good-bye, or I shall be late. 
Come and see me to-morrow : you'll be tired 

Thus they parted, and Fancy proceeded 
to the church. The organ stood on one side 
of the chancel, close to and under the im- 


mediate eye of the vicar when he was in 
the pulpit, and also in full view of the whole 
congregation. Here she sat down, for the 
first time in such a conspicuous position, 
her seat having previously been in a remote 
spot in the aisle. ^ Good heavens— disgrace- 
ful I Curls and a hat and feather !' said the 
daughters of the small gentry, who had 
either only curly hair without a hat and 
feather, or a hat and feather without curl- 
ing hair. 'A bonnet for church always I' 
said sober matrons. 

That Mr. Maybold was conscious of her 
presence close beside him during his ser- 
mon; that he was not at all angry at her 
development of costume; that he admired 
her, she perceived. But she did not see 
that he loved her during that sermon-time 
as he had never loved a woman before ; that 
her proximity was a strange delight to him ; 
and that he gloried in her musical success 
that morning in a spirit quite beyond a 
mere cleric's glory at the inauguration of a 
new order of things. 

The old choir, with humbled hearts, no 


longer took their seats in the gallery as 
heretofore (which was now given up to the 
school-children who were not singers, and 
a pupil-teacher), but were scattered about 
with their wives in different parts of the 
church. Having nothing to do with con- 
ducting the service for almost the first time 
in their lives, they all felt awkward, out of 
place, abashed, and inconvenienced by their 
hands. The tranter had proposed that they 
should stay away to-day and go nutting, 
but grandfather William would not hear of 
such a thing for a moment. ^No,' he replied 
reproachfully, and quoted a verse : " Though 
this has come upon us, let not our hearts be 
turned back, or our steps go out of the way." ' 
So they stood and watched the curls of hair 
trailing down the back of the successful 
rival, and the waving of her feather, as she 
swayed her head. After a few timid notes 
and uncertain touches her playing became 
markedly correct, and towards the end full 
and free. But, whether from prejudice or 
unbiassed judgment, the venerable body 
of musicians could not help thinking that 


the simpler notes they had been wont to 
bring forth were more in keeping with the 
simplicity of :heir old church than the 
crowded chords and interludes it was her 
pleasure to produce. 



The day was done, and Fancy was again 
in the school-house. About five o'clock it 
began to rain, and in rather a dull frame of 
mind she wandered into the schoolroom, for 
want of something better to do. She was 
thinking — of her lover Dick Dewy? not 
precisely. Of how weary she was of living 
alone : how unbearable it would be to return 
to Yalbury under the rule of her strange- 
tempered step-mother ; that it was far better 
to be married to anybody than do that; 
that eight or nine long months had yet to 
be lived through ere the wedding could 
take place. 


At the end of the room was a high win- 
dow, upon the sill of which she could sit 
by first mounting a desk and using it as a 
footstool. As the evening advanced, here 
she perched herself, as was her custom on 
such wet and gloomy occasions, put on a 
light shawl and bonnet, opened the window, 
and looked out at the rain. 

The window overlooked a field and foot- 
path across it, and it was the position from 
which she used to survey the crown of 
Dick's hat in the early days of their ac- 
quaintance and meetings. Not a living soul 
was now visible anywhere ; the rain kept all 
people indoors who were not forced abroad 
by necessity, and necessity was less impor- 
tunate on Sundays than during the week. 

Sitting here and thinking again — of her 
lover, or of the sensation she had created 
at church that day? — well, it is unknown — 
thinkino^ and thinkinor she saw a dark mas- 
culine figure arising into distinctness at the 
farther end of the path — a man without an 
umbrella. Nearer and nearer he came, and 
she perceived that he was in deep mourn- 


ing, and then that it was Dick. Yes, in the 
fondness and foolishness of his young heart, 
after walking four miles, in a drizzling rain 
without overcoat oi umbrella, and in face 
of a remark from his love that he was not 
to come because he would be tired, he had 
made it his business to wander this mile out 
of his way again, from sheer love of spend- 
ing ten minutes in her beloved presence. 

' Dick, how wet you are !' she said, 
as he drew up under the window. ' Why, 
your coat shines as if it had been var- 
nished, and your hat — my goodness, there's 
a streaming hat !' 

* 0, I don't mind, darling !' said Dick 
cheerfully. ' Wet never hurts me, though 
I am rather sorry for my best clothes. 
However, it couldn't be helped; they lent 
all the umbrellas to the women.' 

'And look, there's a nasty patch of 
something just on your shoulder.' 

'Ah, that^s japanning; it rubbed off the 
clamps of poor Jack^s coffin when we low- 
ered him from our shoulders upon the 
bier ! I don't care about that, for 'twas 


the last deed 1 could do for him ; and 'tis 
hard if you can't afford a coat to an old 

Fancy put her hand to her mouth for 
half a minute. Underneath the palm of that 
little hand there existed for that half-mi- 
nute a little yawn. 

'Dick, I don't like you to stand there 
in the wet. Go home and change your 
things. Don't stay another minute.' 

' One kiss after coming so far,' he pleaded. 

* If I can reach, then.' 

He looked rather disappointed at not 
being invited round to the door. She left 
her seated position and bent herself down- 
wards, but not even by standing on the 
plinth was it possible for Dick to get his 
mouth into contact with hers as she held 
it. By great exertion she might have 
reached a little lower ; but then she would 
have exposed her head to the rain. 

' Never mind, Dick ; kiss my hand,' she 
said, flinguag it down to him. ' Now, good- 

^ Good-bye.' 


He walked slowly away, turning and 
turning again to look at her till he was out 
of sight. During the retreat she said to her- 
self, almost involuntarily, and still conscious 
of that morning's triumph, 

' I like Dick, and I love him ; but how 
poor and mean a man looks in the rain, 
with no umbrella, and wet through !' 

As he vanished, she made as if to de- 
scend from her seat; but glancing in the 
other direction she saw another form coming 
along the same path. It was also that of a 
man. He, too, was in black from top to toe ; 
but he carried an umbrella. 

He drew nearer, and the direction of 
the rain caused him so to slant his um- 
brella, that from her height above the 
ground his hefid was invisible, as she was 
also to him. He passed in due time directly 
beneath her, and in looking down upon the 
exterior of his uaibrella her feminine eyes 
instinctively perceived it to be of superior 
silk, and of elegant make. He reached the 
angle of the building, and Fancy suddenly 
lost sight of hipa. Instead of pursuing th^ 


straight path, as Dick had done, he had 
turned sharply round to her own door. 

She jumped to the floor, hastily flung 
off her shawl and bonnet, smoothed and 
patted her hair till the curls hung in pass- 
able condition, and listened. No knock. 
Nearly a minute passed, and still there was 
no knock. Then there arose a soft series 
of raps, no louder than the tapping of a dis- 
tant woodpecker, and barely distinct enough 
to reach her ears. She composed herself 
and flung open the door. 

In the porch stood Mr. Maybold. 

There was a warm flush upon his face, 
and a bright flash in his eyes, which made 
him look handsomer than she had ever seen 
him before. 

* Good-evening, Miss Day.' 

^ Good-evening, Mr. Maybold,* she said, 
in a strange state of mind. She had noticed, 
beyond the ardent hue of his face, that his 
voice had a singular tremor in it, and that 
his hand shook like an aspen leaf when he 
laid his umbrella in the comer of the porch. 
Without another word being spoken by either 


he came into the schoolroom, shut the door, 
and moved close to her. Once inside, the 
expression of his face was no more dis- 
cernible, by reason of the increasing dusk 
of evening. 

*I want to speak to you,' he then said; 
* seriously — on a perhaps unexpected subject, 
but one which is all the world to me — I don't 
know what it may be to you, Miss Day.' 

No reply. 

* Fancy, I have come to ask you if you 
will be my wife ?^ 

As a person who has been idly amusing 
himself mth rolling a snowball might start 
at finding he had set in motion an ava- 
lanche, so did Fancy start at these words 
from the vicar. And in the dead silence 
which followed them, the breathings of the 
man and of the woman could be distinctly 
and separately heard; and there was this 
difference between them — his respirations 
gradually grew quieter and less rapid after 
the enunciation ; hers, from having been 
low and regular, increased in quickness and 
force, till she almost panted. 



'I cannot, I cannot, Mr. Maybold — I 
cannot. Don't ask me !' she said. 

' Don't answer in a hurry !' he entreated. 
'And do listen to me. This is no sudden 
feehng on my part. I have loved you for 
more than six months ! Perhaps my late 
interest in teaching the children here has 
not been so single-minded as it seemed. You 
will understand my motive — like me better, 
perhaps — for honestly telling you that I 
have struggled against my emotion con- 
tinually, because I have thought that it 
was not well for me to love you ! But I 
resolve to struggle no longer; I have ex- 
amined the feeling ; and the love I bear you 
is as genuine as that I could bear any wo- 
man! I see your great beauty; I respect 
your natural talents, and the refinement 
they have brought into your nature — they 
are quite enough, and more than enough 
for me ! They are equal to anything ever 
required of the mistress of a quiet parson- 
age-house — the place in which I shall pass 
my days, wherever it may be situated. 
Fancy, I have watched you, criticised you 


even severely, brought my feelings to the 
light of judgment, and still have found 
them rational, and such as any man might 
have expected to be inspu'ed with by a wo- 
man like you ! So there is nothing hurried, 
secret, or untoward in my desire to make 
you my wife! Fancy, will you marry 

No answer was returned. 

^ Don't refuse ; don't,^ he implored. 'It 
would be foolish of you — I mean cruel I Of 
course we would not live here. Fancy. I 
have had for a long time the offer of an 
exchange of livings with a friend in York- 
shire, but I have hitherto refused on ac- 
count of my mother. There we would go. 
Your musical powers shall be still further 
developed; you shall have whatever piano 
you like; you shall have anything, Fancy! 
anything to make you happy — pony-car- 
riage, flowers, birds, pleasant society; yes, 
you have enough in you for any society, 
after a few months of travel with me I Will 
you. Fancy, marry me?* 

Another pause ensued, varied only by 


the surging of the rain against the window- 
panes, and then Fancy spoke, in a faint and 
broken voice. 

' Yes, I will/ she said. 

* God bless you, my own !* He advanced 
quickly, and put his arm out to embrace 
her. She drew back hastily. ' No, no, not 
now!* she said in an agitated whisper. 
'There are things; — but the temptation is, 
0, too strong, and I can't resist it; I cant 
tell you now, but I must tell you ! Don't, 
please, don't come near me now ! I want to 
think. I can scarcely get myself used to 
the idea of what I have promised yet.' The 
next minute she turned to a desk, buried 
her face in her hands, and burst into a hys- 
terical fit of weeping. ' 0, leave me !' she 
sobbed, 'leave me! 0, leave me!' 

' Don't be distressed ; don't, dearest !' It 
was with visible difficulty that he restrained 
himself from approaching her. ' You shall 
tell me at your leisure what it is that 
grieves you so ; I am happy — beyond all 
measure happy I — at having your simple 


' And do leave me now I' 

*But I must not, injustice to you, leave 
for a minute, until you are yourself again.' 

'There then,' she said, controlling her 
emotion, and standing up ; 'I am not dis- 
turbed now.' 

He reluctantly moved towards the door. 
'Good-bye!' he murmured tenderly. 'I'll 
come to-morrow about this time.* 



The next morning the vicar rose early. 
The first thing he did was to write a long 
and careful letter to his friend in York- 
shire. Then, partaking of a little break- 
fast, he crossed the dale and heath in the 
direction of Casterbridge, bearing his letter 
in his pocket, that he might post it at the 
town office, and obviate the loss of one 
day in its transmission that would have 
resulted had he left it for the foot-post 
throuo^h the villao^e. 

A CRISIS. 299 

It was a foggy morning, and the trees 
shed in noisy water-drops the moisture 
they had collected from the thick air, an 
acorn occasionally falling from its cup to 
the ground, in company with the drippings. 
In the heath, sheets of spiders' -web, almost 
opaque with wet, hung in folds over the 
furze -bushes, and the ferns appeared in 
every variety of brown, green, and yellow 

A low and merry whistling was heard on 
the other side of the hedge, then the light 
footsteps of a man going in the same direc- 
tion as himself. On reaching the gate which 
divided the two enclosures, the vicar be- 
held Dick Dewy's open and cheerful face. 
Dick lifted his hat, and came through 
the gate into the path the vicar was pur- 

' Good-morning, Dewy. How well you 
are looking I' said Mr. Maybold. 

' Yes, sir, I am well — quite well I I am 
going to Casterbridge now, to get Smart's 
collar ; we left it there Saturday to be 


^I am going to Casterbridge, so we'll 
walk together/ the vicar said. Dick gave 
a hop with one foot to put himself in step 
with Mr. Maybold, who proceeded : 'I fancy 
I didn't see you at church yesterday, Dewy. 
Or were you behind the pier ?' 

'No: I went to Stoneley. Poor John 
Dunford chose me to be one of his bearers 
a long time before he died, and yesterday 
was the funeral. Of course I couldn't re- 
fuse, though I should have liked particu- 
larly to have been at home on this occa- 

' Yes, you should have been. The mu- 
sical portion of the service was success- 
ful — very successful indeed; and what is 
more to the purpose, no ill-feeling whatever 
was evinced by any of the members of the 
old choir. They joined in the singing with 
the greatest good-will.* 

''Twas natural enough that I should 
want to be there, I suppose,' said Dick, 
smiling a private smile ; ' considering who 
the organist was.' 

At this the vicar reddened a little, and 

A CRISIS. 301 

said, ' Yes, yes/ though not pt all com- 
prehending Dick's true meaning, who, as 
he received no further reply, continued 
hesitatingly, and with another smile denot- 
ing his pride as a lover, 

* I suppose you know what I mean, 
sir? You've heard about me and — Miss 

The red in Maybold's countenance went 
away: he turned and looked Dick in the 

* No,* he said constrainedly, * I've heard 
nothing whatever about you and Miss Day.* 

'Why, she's my sweetheart, and we 
are going to be married next Midsummer. 
We are keeping it rather close just at pre- 
sent, because it is a good many months to 
wait; but it is her father's wish that we 
don't marry before, and of course we must 
submit. But the time will soon shp along.* 

'Yes, the time will soon slip along. 
Time glides away every day — yes.' 

Maybold said these words, but he had 
no idea of what they were. He was con- 
scious of a cold and sickly thrill through- 


out him; and all he reasoned was this, that 
the young creature whose graces had in- 
toxicated him into making the most im- 
prudent resolution of his life, was less an 
angel than a woman. 

' You see, sir,' continued the ingenuous 
Dick, "twill be better in one sense. I 
shall by that time be the regular manager 
of a branch of my father's business, which 
has very much increased lately, and we 
expect next year to keep an extra couple 
of horses. We've already our eye on one 
— brown as a berry, neck like a rainbow, 
fifteen hands, and not a gray hair in her — 
offered us at twenty-five want a crown. 
And to keep pace with the times, I have 
had some cards printed, and I beg leave 
to hand you one, sir.' 

' Certainly,' said the vicar, mechanically 
taking the card that Dick offered him. 

' I turn in here by the river,' said Dick. 
' I suppose you go straight up the town T 


' Good-morning, sir/ 

^ Good-morning, Dewy/ 

A CRISIS. 303 

Maybold stood still upon the bridge, 
holding the card as it had been put into 
his hand, and Dick's footsteps died away. 
The vicar's first voluntary action was to 
read the card : — 



N.B. Furniture, Coals, Potatoes, Live and Dead Stock, 
removed to any distance on the shortest notice. 

Mr. Maybold leant over the parapet of 
the bridge and looked into the river. He 
saw — without heeding — how the water 
came rapidly from beneath the arches, 
glided down a little steep, then spread it- 
self over a pool in which dace, trout, and 
minnows sported at ease among the long 
green locks of weed, that lay heaving and 
sinking with their roots towards the cur- 
rent. At the end of ten minutes spent 
leaning thus, he stood erect, drew the let- 
ter from his pocket, tore it deliberately 
into such minute fragments that scarcely 
two syllables remained in juxtaposition, 


and sent the whole handful of shreds flut- 
tering into the water. Here he watched 
them eddy, dart, and turn, as they were 
carried downwards towards the ocean and 
gradually disappeared from his view. Fin- 
ally he moved off, and pursued his way 
at a rapid pace towards Mellstock Vicar- 

Nerving himself by a long and intense 
effort, he sat down in his study and wrote 
as follows : 

* Dear Miss Day, — The meaning of your 
words, ''the temptation is too strong," of 
your sadness and your tears, has been 
brought home to me by an accident. 1 
know to-day what I did not know yester- 
day — that you are not a free woman. 

* Why did you not tell me — why didn't 
you ? Did you suppose I knew ? No. 
Had I known, my conduct in coming to 
you as I did would have been reprehen- 

' But I don't chide you ! perhaps no 
blame attaches to you — I can't tell. 

A CR/S/S. 305 

Fancy, though my opinion of you is as- 
sailed and disturbed in a way which cannot 
be expressed, I love you still, and my 
word to you holds good yet. But will 
you, in justice to an honest man who relies 
upon your word to him, consider whether, 
under the circumstances, you can honour- 
ably forsake him? 

* Yours ever sincerely, 

* Arthur Maybold.' 

He rang the bell. ' Tell Charles to take 
these copybooks and this note to the school 
at once.' 

The maid took the parcel and the letter, 
and in a few minutes a boy was seen to 
leave the vicarage gate, with the one under 
his arm, and the other in his hand. The 
vicar sat with his hand to his brow, watch- 
ing the lad as he climbed the hill and 
entered the little field that intervened be- 
tween that spot and the school. 

Here he was met by another boy, and 
after a salutation and pugilistic frisk had 
passed between the two, the second boy 


came on his way to the vicarage, and the 
other vanished out of sight. 

The boy came to the door, and a note 
for Mr. Maybold was brought in. 

He knew the writing. Opening the 
envelope with an unsteady hand, he read 
the subjoined words: 

' Dear Mr. Maybold, — I have been think- 
ing seriously and sadly through the whole 
of the night of the question you put to me 
last evening; and of my answer. That 
answer, as an honest woman, I had no right 
to give. 

'It is my nature — perhaps all women^s 
— to love refinement of mind and manners ; 
but even more than this, to be ever fascin- 
ated with the idea of surroundings more 
elegant and luxurious than those which 
have been customary. And you praised me, 
and praise is life to me. It was alone my 
sensations at these things which prompted 
my reply. Ambition and vanity they would 
be called; perhaps they are so. 

* After this explanation, I hope you will 

A CRISIS. 307 

generously allow me to withdraw the ans- 
wer I too hastily gave. 

*And one more request. To keep the 
meeting of last night, and all that passed 
between us there, for ever a secret. Were 
it to become known, it would for ever 
blight the happiness of a trusting and gen- 
erous man, whom I love still, and shall love 

* Yours sincerely, 

'Fancy Day/ 

The last written communication that 
ever passed from the vicar to Fancy, was a 
note containing these words only : 

'Tell him everything; it is best. He 
will forgive you.* 

PartV. Conthmn. 

Chapter T. * The Knot there's no Untying/ 

The last day of the story is dated just sub- 
sequent to that point in the development 
of the seasons when country people go to 
bed among nearly naked trees, and awake 
next morning among green ones ; when the 
landscape appears embarrassed with the 
sudden weight and brilliancy of its leaves ; 
when the night-jar comes and commences 
for the summer his tune of one note; when 
the apple-trees have bloomed, and the roads 
and orchards become spotted T\ith fallen 
petals; when the faces of the delicate 
flowers are darkened, and their heads 
weighed down by the throng of honey-bees, 
which increase their humming till humming 
is too mild a term for the all-pervading 
sound; and when cuckoos, blackbirds, and 


sparrows, that have hitherto been merry 
and respectful neighbours, become noisy 
and persistent intimates. 

The exterior of Geoffrey Day's house in 
Yalbury Wood appeared exactly as was 
usual at that season, but a frantic barking 
of the dogs at the back told of unwonted 
movements somewhere within. Inside the 
door the eyes beheld a gathering, which 
was a rarity indeed for the dwelling of the 
solitary keeper. 

About the room were sitting and stand- 
ing, in various gnarled attitudes, our old 
acquaintance, grandfathers James and Wil- 
liam, the tranter, Mr. Penny, two or three 
children, including Jimmy and Charley, 
besides three or four country ladies and 
gentlemen who do not require any dis- 
tinction by name. Geoffrey was seen and 
heard stamping about the outhouse and 
among the bushes of the garden, attending 
to details of daily routine before the proper 
time arrived for their performance, in order 
that they might be off his hands for the 
d^y. He appeared with his shirt-sleeves 


rolled up ; his best new nether garments, in 
which he had arrayed himself that morn- 
ing, being temporarily disguised under a 
week-day apron whilst these proceedings 
were in operation. He occasionally glanced 
at the hives in passing, to see if the bees 
were swarming, ultimately rolling down his 
shirt-sleeves and going indoors, talking to 
tranter Dewy whilst buttoning the wrist- 
bands, to save time ; next going upstairs for 
his best waistcoat, and coming down again 
to make another remark whilst buttoning 
that, during the time looking fixedly in 
the tranter's face, as if he were a looking- 

The furniture had undergone attenua- 
tion to an alarming extent, every duplicate 
piece having been removed, including the 
clock by Thomas Wood ; Ezekiel Sparrow- 
grass being at last left sole referee in mat- 
ters of time. 

Fancy was stationary upstairs, receiving 
her layers of clothes and adornments, und 
answering by short fragments of laughter 
which had more fidgetiness than mirth ia 


them, remarks that were made from time 
to time by Mrs. Dewy and Mrs. Penny, 
who were assisting her at the toilet, Mrs. 
Day having pleaded a queerness in her 
head as a reason for shutting herselt up in 
an inner bedroom for the whole morning. 
Mrs. Penny appeared with nine corkscrew 
curls on each side of her temples, and a 
back comb stuck upon her crown like a 
castle on a steep. 

The conversation just now going on 
was concerning the banns, the last pubhca- 
tion of which had been on the Sunday pre- 

'And how did they sound?* Fancy 
subtly inquired. 

' Very beautiful indeed,' said Mrs. Pen- 
ny. ' I never heard any sound better.' 

'But A(?w;f' 

' 0, so natural and elegant, didn't they, 
Reuben!' she cried, through the chinks of 
the unceiled floor, to the tranter downstairs. 

' What's that ?' said the tranter, looking 
up inquiringly at the floor above him for an 


'Didn't Dick and Fancy sound well 
wlien they were called home in church last 
Sunday?' came downwards again in Mrs. 
Penny's voice. 

' Ay, that they did, my sonnies ! — especi- 
ally the first time. There was a terrible 
whispering piece of work in the congre- 
gation, wasn't there, naibour Penny?' said 
the tranter, taking up the thread of conver- 
sation on his own account, and, in order to 
be heard in the room above, speaking very 
loudly to Mr. Penny, who sat at the dis- 
tance of two feet from him, or rather less. 

' I never remember seeing such a whis- 
pering as there was,' said Mr. Penny, also 
loudly, to the room above. * And such sor- 
rowful envy on the maidens' faces; really, 
I never see such envy as there was !' 

Fancy's lineaments varied in innumer- 
able little flushes, and her heart palpitated 
innumerable little tremors of pleasure. ' But 
perhaps,' she said, with assumed indiffer- 
ence, ' it was only because no religion was 
going on just then.' 

' 0, no ; nothing to do with that. 'Twas 


because of your high standing. It was just 
as if they had one and all caught Dick kiss- 
ing and coling ye to death, wasn't it, Mrs. 
Dewy r 

' Ay ; that 'twas.' 

* How people will talk about people I' 
Fancy exclaimed. 

' Well, if you make songs about your- 
self, my dear, you can't blame other people 
for singing 'em.^ 

'Mercy me! how shall I go through 
it?' said the young lady again, but merely 
to those in the bedroom, with a breathing 
of a kind between a sigh and a pant, round 
shining eyes, and warm face. 

' 0, you'll get through it well enough, 
child,' said Mrs. Dewy placidly. ' The edge 
of the performance is taken off at the call- 
ing home; and when once you get up to 
the chancel end o' the church, you feel as 
saucy as you please. I'm sure I felt as 
brave as a sodger all through the deed — 
though of course I dropped my face and 
looked modest, as was becoming to a maid 
Mind you do that, Fancy,' 


^ And I walked into the church as quiet 
as a lamb, I'm sure/ subjoined Mrs. Penny. 
' There, you see Penny is such a little small 
man. But certainly, I was flurried in the 
inside o' me. Well, thinks I, 'tis to be, and 
here goes I And do you do the same : say, 
" 'Tis to be, and here goes I" * 

'Is there such a wonderful virtue in 
your '"Tis to be, and here goes!"' inquired 

' Wonderful I 'Twill carry a body through 
it all from wedding to churching, if you 
only let it out with spirit enough.' 

'Very well, then,' said Fancy, blush- 
ing. ' 'Tis to be, and here goes !' 

' That's a girl for a husband !' said Mrs 

' I do hope he'll come in time !' con- 
tinued the bride -elect, inventing a new 
cause of affright, now that the other was 

' 'T would be a thousand pities if he 
didn't come, now you be so brave,* said 
Mrs. Penny. 

Grandfather James, having overheard 


some of these remarks, said downstairs 
with mischievous loudness : 

' IVe heard that at some weddings the 
men don t come.' 

' They've been known not to, before 
now, certainly,* said Mr. Penny, cleaning 
one of the glasses of his spectacles. 

' 0, do hear what they are saying down- 
stairs,' whispered Fancy. ' Hush, hush !' 

She listened. 

* They have, haven't they, Geoffrey V 
continued grandfather James, as GeoflErey 

' Have what T said Geoffrey. 
*The men have been known not to 

' That they have,' said the keeper. 

* Ay ; I've knowed times when the wed- 
ding had to be put off through his not 
appearing, being tired of the woman. And 
another case I knowed when the man was 
catched in a man- trap crossing Mellstock 
Wood, and the three months had run out 
before he got well, and the banns had to bo 
published over again.* 


' How horrible !' said Fancy. 

'They only say it on purpose to tease 
you, my dear,' said Mrs. Dewy. 

^ Tis quite sad to think what wretched 
shifts poor maids have been put to,' came 
again from downstairs. ' Ye should hear 
Clerk Wilkins, my brother-law, tell his 
experiences in marrying couples these last 
thirty years: sometimes one thing, some- 
times another — ^tis quite heart-rending — 
enough to make your hair stand on end.' 

'Those things don't happen very often, 
I know,' said Fancy, with smouldering un- 

'Well, really 'tis time Dick was here,' 
said the tranter. 

'Don't keep on at me so, grandfather 
James and Mr. Dewy, and all you down 
there !' Fancy broke out, unable to endure 
any longer. ' I am sure I shall die, or do 
something, if you do.' 

' Never you hearken to these old chaps, 
Miss Day!^ cried Nat Callcome, the best 
man, who had just entered, and threw his 
voice upward through the chinks of the 


floor as the others had done. ' 'Tis all 
right ; Dick's coming on like a wild feller ; 
hell be here in a minute. The hive o' bees 
his mother gie'd en for his new garden 
irwarmed jist as he was starting, and he 
said, " I can't afford to lose a stock o' bees ; 
no, that I can't, though I fain would ; and 
Fancy wouldn't wish it on any account." 
So he jist stopped to ting to 'em and shake 

* A genuine wise man,' said Geoffrey. 

* To be sure, what a day's work we had 
yesterday!' Mr. Callcome continued, lower- 
ing his voice as if it were not necessary any 
longer to include those in the room above 
among his audience, and selecting a remote 
comer of his best clean handkerchief for 
wiping his face. ' To be sure !' 

' Things so heavy, I suppose,' said Geof- 
frey, as if reading through the chimney- 
window from the far end of the pad- 

* Ay,* said Nat, looking round the room 
at points from which furniture had been re- 
moved. 'And so awkward to carry, too. 


Twas athwart and across Dick's garden ; in 
and out Dick's door; up and down Dick's 
stairs; round and round Dick's chammers 
till legs were worn to stumps : and Dick is 
so particular, too. And the stores of vic- 
tuals and drink that lad has laid in: why, 
'tis enough for Noah's arkl I'm sure I 
ne^^er wish to see a choicer half-dozen of 
hams than he's got there in his chimley; 
and the cider I tasted was a very pretty 
drop, indeed ; — never could desire a prettier 
tasted cider.* 

* They be for the love and the stalled ox 
both. Ah, the greedy martels I' said grand- 
father James. 

*Well, may-be they be. "Surely," says 
I, "that couple between 'em have heaped 
up so much furniture and victuals, that 
anybody would think they were going to 
take hold the big end of married life first, 
and begin wi' a grown-up family.'' Ah, 
what a bath of heat we two chaps were 
in, to be sure, a-getting that furniture in 
order !* 

* I do so wish the room below was ceiled,' 


said Fancy, as the dressing went on; *they 
can hear all we say and do up here/ 

* Hark ! Who's that T exclaimed a small 
pupil-teacher, who also assisted this morn- 
ing, to her great dehght. She ran half-way 
down the stairs, and peeped round the ban- 
ister. ' 0, you should, you should, you 
should I* she exclaimed, scrambling up to 
the room again. 

*What? said Fancy. 

*See the bridesmaids! TheyVe just 
come ! 'Tis wonderful, really I 'tis wonderful 
how muslin can be brought to it. There, 
they don't look a bit like themselves, but 
like some very rich sisters o' theirs that no- 
body knew they had I' 

*Make 'em come up to me, make 'em 
come up I' cried Fancy ecstatically; and the 
four damsels appointed, namely. Miss Susan 
Dewy, Miss Bessie Dewy, Miss Vashti Sniff, 
and Miss Mercy Onmey, surged upstairs, 
and floated along the passage. 

' I wish Dick would come I' was again 
the burden of Fancy. 

The same instant a small twig and flower 


from the creeper outside the door flew in 
at the open window, and a mascuHne voice 
said, ' Keady, Fancy dearest ?' 

' There he is, he is !' cried Fancy, titter- 
ing spasmodically, and breathing as it were 
for the first time that morning. 

The bridesmaids crowded to the win- 
dow and turned their heads in the direction 
pointed out, at which motion eight ear- 
rings all swung as one : — not looking 
at Dick because they particularly wanted 
to see him, but with an important sense of 
their duty as obedient ministers of the ^vill 
of that apotheosised being — the Bride. 

' He looks very taking !' said Miss Vashti 
Sniff, a young lady who blushed cream- 
colour and wore yellow bonnet-ribbons. 

Dick was advancing to the door in a 
painfully new coat of shining cloth, prim- 
rose-coloured waistcoat, hat of the same 
painful style of newness, and with an extra 
quantity of whiskers shaved off his face, 
and his hair cut to an unwonted shortness 
in honour of the occasion. 

' Now I'll run down/ said Fancy, look- 


ing at herself over her shoulder in the glass, 
and flittinjj off. 

^0 Dick!' she exclaimed, ' I am so glad 
you are come ! I knew you would, of course, 
but I thought, if you shouldn't!' 

'Not come, Fancy! Het or wet, blow 
or snow, here come I to-day ! Why, what's 
possessing your little soul? You never used 
to mind such things a bit.* 

'Ah, Mr. Dick, I hadn't hoisted my 
colours and committed myself then !' said 

' 'Tis a pity I can't marry the whole 
five of yel' said Dick, surveying them all 

' Heh-heh-heh !' laughed the four brides- 
maids, and Fancy privately touched Dick 
and smoothed him down behind his shoul- 
der, as if to assure herself that he was there 
in flesh and blood as her own property. 

' Well, whoever would have thought such 
a thing ?' said Dick, taking off his hat, sink- 
ing into a chair, and turning to the elder 
members of the company. 

The elder members of the company 


arranged their eyes and lips to signify that 
in their opinion nobody could have thought 
such a thing, whatever it was. 

'That my bees should have swarmed 
just then, of all times and seasons!* con- 
tinued Dick, throwing a comprehensive 
glance like a net over the whole auditory. 
' And 'tis a fine swarm, too : I haven't seen 
6uch a fine swarm for these ten years.' 

*An excellent sign,' said Mrs. Penny, 
from the depths of experience. ' An excel- 
lent sign.' 

' I am glad everything seems so right,' 
said Fancy with a breath of relief. 

' And so am I,' said the four bridesmaids 
with much sjTiipathy. 

'Well, bees can't be put oif,' observed 
grandfather James. ^ Marrying a woman is 
a thing you can do at any moment; but a 
swarm of bees won't come for the asking.' 

Dick fanned himself with his hat. 'I 
cant think,' he said thoughtfully, 'what- 
ever 'twas I did to offend Mr. Maybold, — a 
man I like so much too. He rather took to 
me when he came first, and used to say he 


should like to see me married, and that 
he'd marry me, whether the young woman 
I chose lived in his parish or no. I slightly 
reminded him of it when I put in the banns, 
but he didn't seem to take kindly to the 
notion now, and so I said no more. I 
wonder how it was.' 

*I wonder,' said Fancy, looking into 
vacancy with those beautiful eyes of hers — 
too refined and beautiful for a tranter's 
wife ; but, perhaps, not too good. 

'Altered his mind, as folk will, I sup- 
pose,' said the tranter. * Well, my sonnies, 
there'll be a good strong party looking at 
us to-day as we go along.* 

'And the body of the church,' said 
Geoffrey, 'vdll be Kned with feymells, and 
a row of young fellers' heads, as far down 
as the eyes, Avill be noticed just above the 
sills of the chancel- winders.* 

' Ay, you've been through it tmce,' said 
Reuben, ' and well may know.' 

'I can put up with it for once,' said 
Dick, ' or tmce either, or a dozen times.' 

' Dick !' said Fancy reproachfully. 


'Why, dear, that's nothing,— only just 
a bit of a flourish. You are as nervous as a 
cat to-day.' 

* And th^n, of course, when 'tis all over,* 
continued the tranter, ^ we shall march two 
and two round the parish.' 

*Yes, sure,' said Mr. Penny: 'two and 
two: every man hitched up to his woman, 
'a b'lieve.' 

' I never can make a show of myself in 
that way!' said Fancy, looking at Dick to 
ascertain if he could. 

'I'm agreed to anything you and the 
company likes, my dear !' said Mr. Richard 
Dewy heartily. 

'Why, we did when we were married, 
didn't we, Ann?' said the tranter; 'and so 
do everybody, my sonnies.' 

' And so did we,' said Fancy's father. 

' And so did Penny and I,' said Mrs. 
Penny : ' I wore my best Bath clogs, I re- 
member, and Penny was cross because it 
made me look so tall.' 

'And so did father and mother,' said 
Miss Mercy Onmey. 


' And I mane to, come next Christmas I* 
said Nat the bridesman vigorously, and 
looking towards the person of Miss Yashti 

* Respectable people don't nowadays/ 
said Fancy. ^ Still, since poor mother did, 


'Ay,' resumed the tranter, ''twas on a 
White Tuesday when I committed it. Mell- 
stock Club walked the same day, and we 
new-married folk went a-gaying round the 
parish behind 'em. Everybody used to wear 
summat white at Whitsuntide in them days. 
My sonnies, I've got they very white trou- 
sers that I wore, at home in box now. 
HaVtl, Ann?' 

' You had till I cut 'em up for Jimmy,' 
said Mrs. Dewy. 

'And we ought, by rights, to go round 
Galligar - lane, by Quenton's,' said Mr. 
Penny, recovering scent of the matter in 
hand. 'Dairyman Quenton is a very re- 
spectable man, and so is Farmer Crocker, 
and we ought to show ourselves to them.' 

' True/ said the tranter, ' we ought to 


go round Galligar - lane to do the thing 
well. We shall form a very striking object 
walking along : good-now, naibours ?' 

* That we shall : a proper pretty sight 
for the nation,' said Mrs. Penny. 

'Hullo I' said the tranter, suddenly 
catching sight of a singular human figure 
standing in the doorway, and wearing a 
long smock-frock of pillow-case cut and of 
snowy whiteness. ^Why, Leaf I whatever 
dost thou do here ?' 

' I've come to know if so be T can come 
to the wedding — hee-hee!* said Leaf in an 
uneasy voice of timidity. 

' Now, Leaf,' said the tranter reproach- 
fully, ' you know we don't want ye here to- 
day: we've got no room for ye. Leaf.' 

'Thomas Leaf, Thomas Leaf, fie upon 
ye for prying !' said old William. 

' I know I've got no head, but I thought, 
if I washed and put on a clane shirt and 
smock-frock, I might just call,' said Leaf, 
turning away disappointed and trembling. 

'Pore feller!' said the tranter, turning 
to Geofirey. 'Suppose we must let en 


come? His looks is rather against en, and 
a is terrible silly; but a have never been 
in jail, and 'a wont do no harm.' 

Leaf looked with gratitude at the tranter 
for these praises, and then anxiously at 
Geoffrey, to see what effect they would have 
in helping his cause. 

*Ay, let en come,' said Geoffrey deci- 
sively. ^ Leaf, th'rt welcome, 'st know ;' and 
Leaf accordingly remained. 

They were now all ready for leaving the 
house, and began to form a procession in 
the following order: Fancy and her father, 
Dick and Susan Dewy, Nat Callcome and 
Vashti Sniff, Ted Waywood and Mercy On- 
mey, and Jimmy and Bessy Dewy. These 
formed the executive, and all appeared in 
strict wedding attire. Then came the 
tranter and Mrs. Dewy, and last of all, Mr. 
and Mrs. Penny; — the tranter conspicuous 
by his enormous gloves, size eleven and 
three-quarters, which appeared at a distance 
like boxing gloves bleached, and sat rather 
awkwardly upon his brown hands; this 
hall-mark of respectability having been set 


upon himself to-day (by Fancy's special re- 
quest) for the first time in his life. 

' The proper way is for the bridesmaids 
to walk together/ suggested Fancy. 

'What? 'Twas always young man and 
young woman, arm in crook, in my time !' 
said Geoffrey, astounded. 

' And in mine !' said the tranter. 

' And in ours !' said Mr. and Mrs. Penny. 

* Never heard o' such a thing as woman 
and woman!' said old William; who, with 
grandfather James and Mrs. Day, was to 
stay at home. 

' Whichever way you and the company 
likes, my dear!' said Dick, who being on 
the point of securing his right to Fancy, 
seemed willing to renounce all other rights 
in the world with the greatest pleasure. 
The decision was left to Fancy. 

'Well, I think I'd rather have it the 
way mother had it,' she said, and the cou- 
ples moved along under the trees, every 
man to his maid. 

' Ah !' said grandfather James to grand- 
father William as they retired, ' I wonder 


which she thinks most about, Dick or her 
wedding raiment!' 

* Well, 'tis their nater/ said grandfather 
William. ^ Remember the words of the pro- 
phet Jeremiah : " Can a maid forget her or- 
naments, or a bride her attire?" ' 

Now among dark perpendicular firs, like 
the shafted columns of a cathedral; now 
under broad beeches in bright young leaves, 
they threaded their way: then through a 
hazel copse, matted with primroses and wild 
hyacinths, into the high road, which dipped 
at that point directly into the village of 
Yalbury; and in the space of a quarter of 
an hour, Fancy found herself to be Mrs. 
Richard Dewy, though, much to her sur- 
prise, feeling no other than Fancy Day still. 

On the circuitous return walk through 
the lanes and fields, amid much chattering 
and laughter, especially when they came to 
stiles, Dick discerned a brown spot far up a 
turnip field. 

'Why, 'tis Enoch!' he said to Fancy. *I 
thought I missed him at the house this 
morning. How is it he's left you T 

'He drank too much cider, and it got 


into his head, and they put him in the 
stocks for it. Father was obliged to get 
somebody else for a day or two, and Enoch 
hasn't had anything to do with the woods 

' We might ask him to call down to- 
night. Stocks are nothing for once, con- 
sidering 'tis our wedding-day.' The bridal 
party was ordered to halt. 

* Eno-o-o-o-ch !' cried Dick at the top 
of his voice. 

' Y-a-a-a-a-a-as I' said Enoch from the 

* D'ye know who I be-e-e-e-e-e T 
' No-o-o-o-o-o-o!' 

* Dick Dew-w-w-w-wy 1* 

' Just a-ma-a-a-a-a-arried P 

* This is my wife, Fa-a-a-a-a-ancy !' (hold- 
ing her up to Enoch's view as if she had 
been a nosegay.) 


'Will ye come down to the party to- 
ni-i-i-i-i-i-ight !' 

' Ca-a-a-a-a-an't I' 


' Why n-0-o-o-o-ot ?' 

* Don't work for the family no-o-o-o-ow I' 

^ Not nice of Master Enoch,' said Dick, 
as they resumed their walk. 

'You mustn't blame en,' said Geoffrey; 
Hhe man's not himself now; he's in his 
morning frame of mind. When he's had a 
gallon o' cider or ale, and a pint or two of 
mead, the man's well enough, and his man- 
ners be as good as anybody's in the king 



The point in Yalbury Wood which 
abutted on the end of Geoffrey Day's pre- 
mises was closed with an ancient beech-tree, 
horizontally of enormous extent, though hav- 
ing no great pretentions to height. Many 
hundreds of birds had been born amidst the 
boughs of this single tree ; tribes of rabbits 
and hares had nibbled at its bark from year 
to year; quaint tufts of fungi had sprung 


from the cavities of its forks ; and countless 
families of moles and earthworms had crept 
about its roots. Beneath its shade spread a 
carefully-tended grass-plot, its purpose be- 
ing to supply a healthy exercise-ground for 
young chicken and pheasants: the hens, 
their mothers, being enclosed in coops 
placed upon the same green flooring. 

All these encumbrances were now re- 
moved, and as the afternoon advanced, the 
guests gathered on the spot, where music, 
dancing, and the singing of songs went 
forward with great spirit throughout the 
evening. The propriety of every one was 
intense, by reason of the influence of Fancy, 
who, as an additional precaution in this 
direction, had strictly charged her father 
and the tranter to carefully avoid saying 
Hhee' and Hhou' in their conversation, on 
the plea that those ancient words sounded 
so very humiliating to persons of decent 
taste ; also that they w^ere never to be seen 
drawing the back of the hand across the 
mouth after drinking, — a local English cus- 
tom of extraordinary antiquity, but stated 


by Fancy to be decidedly dying out among 
the upper classes of society. 

In addition to the local musicians pre- 
sent, a man who had a thorough knowledge 
of the tambourine was invited from the vil- 
lage of Tantrum Clangley, — a place long 
celebrated for the skill of its inhabitants as 
performers on instruments of percussion. 
These important members of the assembly 
were relegated to a height of two or three 
feet from the ground, upon a temporary 
erection of planks supported by barrels. 
Whilst the dancing progressed, the older 
persons sat in a group under the trunk of 
the beech, — the space being allotted to them 
somewhat grudgingly by the young ones, 
who were greedy of pirouetting room, — and 
fortified by a table against the heels of the 
dancers. Here the gaffers and gammers, 
whose dancing days were over, told stories 
of great impressiveness, and at intervals 
surveyed the advancing and retiring couples 
from the same retreat, as people on shore 
might be supposed to survey a naval en- 
gagement in the bay beyond ; returning 


again to their tales when the pause was 
over. Those of the w^hirling throng, who, 
during the rests between each figure, turned 
their eyes in the direction of these seated 
ones, were only able to discover, on ac- 
count of the music and bustle, that a very 
striking circumstance was in course of nar- 
ration — denoted by an emphatic sweep of 
the hand, snapping of the fingers, close of 
the lips, and fixed look into the centre of 
the listener s eye for the space of a quartei 
of a minute, which raised in that listener 
such a reciprocating working of face as to 
sometimes make the distant dancers half 
wish to know what such an interesting tale 
could refer to. 

Fancy caused her looks to wear as much 
matronly expression as was obtainable out 
of six hours' experience as a wife, in order 
that the contrast between her own state of 
life and that of the unmarried young women 
present might be duly impressed upon the 
company : occasionally stealing glances of 
admiration at her left hand, but this quite 
privately; for her ostensible bearing con 


cerDing the matter was intended to show 
tliat, though she undoubtedly occupied the 
most wondrous position in the eyes of the 
world that had ever been attained, she was 
almost unconscious of the circumstance, and 
that the somewhat prominent position in 
which that wonderfully - emblazoned left 
hand was continually found to be placed, 
when handing cups and saucers, knives, 
forks, and glasses, was quite the result of ac- 
cident. As to wishing to excite envy in the 
bosoms of her maiden companions, by the ex- 
hibition of the shining ring, every one was to 
know it was quite foreign to the dignity of 
such an experienced married woman. Dick's 
imao-ination in the mean time was far less 
capable of drawing so much wontedness 
from his new condition. He had been for 
two or three hours trying to feel himself 
merely a newly-married man, but had been 
able to get no farther in the attempt than 
to realise that he was Dick Dewy, the 
tranter's son, at a party at the keeper's, 
dancing and chatting with Fancy Day. 
Five country dances, including 'Haste 


to the Wedding,' two reels, and three frao;- 
ments of hornpipes, brought them to the 
time for supper, which, on account of the 
dampness of the grass from the immaturity 
of the summer season, was spread indoors. 
At the conclusion of the meal, Dick went 
out to put the horse in; and Fancy, with 
the elder half of the four bridesmaids, re- 
tired upstairs to dress for the journey to 
Dick's new cottage near Mellstock. 

' How long will you be putting on your 
bonnet, Fancy T Dick inquired at the foot 
of the staircase. Being now a man of busi- 
ness and married, he was strong on the im- 
portance of time, and doubled the emphasis 
of his words in conversing, and added vigour 
to his nods. 

' Only a minute.' 

' How long is that ? 

' Well, dear, five.' 

* Ah, sonnies !' said the tranter, as Dick 
retired, * 'tis a talent of the female race that 
low numbers should stand for high, more 
especially in matters of waiting, matters o^ 
age, and matters of money.' 


* True, true, upon my body,' said Geof- 

*Ye spak with feeling, Geoffrey, seem- 

* Anybody that d'know my experience 
migh^ guess that/ 

' What's she doing now, Geoffrey ?' 

' Claning out all the upstairs drawers 
and cupboards, and dusting the second- 
best chainey — a thing that's only done 
once a year. "If there's work to be 
done, I must do it," says she, "wedding 
or no.^' ' 

' Tis my belief she's a very good woman 
at bottom.' 

' She's terrible deep, then/ 

Mrs. Penny turned round. 'Well, 'tis 
humps and hollers with the best of us; 
but still and for all that, Dick and Fancy 
stand as fair a chance of having a bit of 
sunsheen as any married pair in the land.' 

' Ay, there's no gainsaying it.' 

Mrs. Dew}" came up, talking to one per- 
son and looking at another. ' Happy, yes,' 
she said. ' 'Tis always so when a couple is 


80 exactly in tune with one another as Dick 
and she/ 

* When they be n't too poor to have time 
to sing,' said grandfather James. 

*I tell ye, naibours, when the pinch 
comes,' said the tranter: 'when the oldest 
daughter's boots be only a size less than her 
mother's, and the rest o' the flock close be- 
hind her. A sharp time for a man that, my 
sonnies; a very sharp time! Chanticleer's 
comb is a-cut then, 'a b'lieve.' 

* That's about the form o't,' said Mr. 
Penny. ' That'll put the stuns upon a man, 
when you must measure mother and daugh- 
ter's lasts to tell 'em apart.' 

'You've no cause to complain, Reuben, 
of such a close-coming flock,' said Mrs. 
Dewy; 'for ours was a straggling lot 
enough, God knows !' 

'I d'know it, I d'know it,' said the 
tranter. 'You be a well-enough woman, 

Mrs. Dewy put her mouth in the form 
of a smile, aud put it back again without 


* And if they come together, they go to- 
gether,' said Mrs. Penny, whose family was 
the reverse of the tranter's ; ' and a little 
money will make either fate tolerable. And 
money can be made by our young couple, I 

' Yes, that it can !' said the impulsive 
voice of Leaf, who had hitherto humbly ad- 
mired the proceedings from a corner. *It 
can be done — all that's wanted is a few 
pounds to begin with. That's all ! 1 know 
a story about it !' 

* Let's hear thy story. Leaf,' said the 
tranter. ' I never knowed you were clever 
enough to tell a story. Silence, all of ye I 
Mr. Leaf will tell a story.' 

' Tell your story, Thomas Leaf,' said 
grandfather WiUiam in the tone of a school" 

* Once,' said the delighted Leaf, in an 
uncertain voice, ' there was a man who lived 
in a house ! Well, this man went thinking 
and thinking night and day. At last, he 
said to himself, as I might, " If I had only 
ten pound, I'd make a fortune." At last by 


hook or by crook, behold he got the ten 
pounds !' 

' Only think of that !' said Nat Callcome 

^ Silence !' said the tranter. 

' Well, now comes the interesting part 
of the story ! In a little time he made that 
ten pounds twenty. Then a little time after 
that he doubled it, and made it forty. Well, 
he went on, and a good while after that he 
made it eighty, and on to a hundred. Well, 
by and by he made it two hundred I Well, 
you'd never believe it, but — he went on and 
made it four hundred I He went on, and 
what did he do? Why, he made it eight 
hundred I Yes, he did,' continued Leaf, in 
the highest pitch of excitement, bringing 
down his fist upon his knee with such force 
that he quivered with the pain; 'yes, and 
he went on and made it a thousand !' 

' Hear, hear !' said the tranter. ' Better 
than the history of England, my sonnies T 

'Thank you for your story, Thomas 
Leaf,' said grandfather William; and then 
Leaf gradually sank into nothingness again. 



Amid a medley of laughter, old shoes, 
and elder-wine, Dick and his bride took 
their departure, side by side in the excel- 
lent new spring-cart which the young tran- 
ter now possessed. The moon was just over 
the full, rendering any light from lamps or 
their own beauties quite unnecessary to the 
pair. They drove slowly along Wilderness 
Bottom, where the lane passed between 
two copses. Dick was talking to his com- 

'Fancy,' he said, ' why we are so happy 
is because there is such entire confidence 
between us. Ever since that time you con- 
fessed to that little flirtation with Shinar by 
the river (which was really no flirtation at 
all), I have thought how artless and good 
you must be to tell me of such a trifling 
thing, and to be so frightened about it as 
you were. It has won me to tell you my 
every movement since then. We'll have 
no secrets from each other, darling, will we 
ever? — ^no secret at all.* 

^ None trom to-day,/ said iancy. 'Hark I 
what's tnat? 


From a neighbouring thicket was sud- 
denly heard to issue in a loud, musical, and 
liquid voice, 

* Tippiwit I swe-e-et I ki-ki-ki I Come 
hither, come hither, come hither I' 

'0, 'tis the nightingale,' murmured she, 
and thought of a secret she should never 


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